Hong Kong Backs Down Over Chinese Patriotism Classes

by
staff
The Hong Kong government has backed down over plans to make schoolchildren take Chinese patriotism classes, after weeks of protests.

The Hong Kong government has backed down over plans to make schoolchildren take Chinese patriotism classes, after weeks of protests.Hong Kong backs down

City leader Leung Chun-ying said the classes would be optional for schools.

"The schools are given the authority to decide when and how they would like to introduce the moral and national education," he said.

Critics said the plans were an attempt to brainwash the city's children by the Chinese government in Beijing.

The government had said the subject was important to foster a sense of national belonging and identity. Anti-Beijing sentiment has been on the rise in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, a city of seven million people.

Freedom

The proposed curriculum, which consisted of general civics education as well as more controversial lessons on appreciating mainland China, was due to be introduced in primary schools in September and secondary schools in 2013.

According to the AFP news agency, course material funded by the government extolled the benefits of one-party rule, equated multi-party democracy to chaos, and glossed over events like the Tiananmen Square crackdown and the mass starvation of Mao Zedong's regime.

A survey released last week suggested 69% of students opposed the classes.

The climbdown came a day after activists said more than 100,000 protesters had rallied at government headquarters.

Unlike the rest of China, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of freedom, including a free press, the right to assemble and transparent, accountable institutions.

The BBC's Juliana Liu, in Hong Kong, says the row is the latest example of the cultural, social and political gap that exists between Hong Kong and its mainland masters.

It also highlights the deep suspicion with which many Hong Kong people continue to regard the Chinese government, she adds.