09/04/2012, 00.00
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Protests and strike against the start of 'patriotic' education

Yesterday, the six schools chosen to test the new course responded with a boycott. Catholic schools are leading the fight. The admiralty is still occupied by students. So long as the government does not listen, "We will sit out here and more should join us," they say.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The first day of school in Hong Kong saw an all-out strike against the government's plan to impose 'national education' on the city's various school networks. Six elementary and high schools chosen to test the programme saw students stay out to protest against what Card Zen calls a plan to brainwash local pupils. The goal of the protest is to see the whole project withdrawn. So far, many classes have been boycotted and many students have stayed away.

Many of them are in the streets in front of government buildings in the Admiralty district where, yesterday, some 8,000 people marched demanding the new courses be dropped.

The protest movement was sparked by a school reform proposed by the Chinese government in 2002 that was eventually adopted in 2004. It included a new unspecified subject matter called 'national education'.

The latter's content would include promoting the economic and scientific progress of the People's Republic of China, but nothing about things like the Tiananmen massacre. A survey among pupils and in Beijing's main square.

Schools run by the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong and Protestant Churches have been in the forefront of the fight against this programme.

Today, at the Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School, pupils and parents staged a protest against the reform. Some families said they might send their children overseas to avoid brainwashing.

Peggy Chan Yuen-yee, a flight attendant, said she had been unaware the school was a launch pad for national education. "I'm thinking of sending my son to Britain to study, depending on how the issue develops," she added.

For now, only a handful of schools are introducing the new subject. In three years, all of them will be required to offer it. This prospect is pushing more and more Hong Kongers to oppose both the reform and the local government, seen by many as too submissive to Beijing's diktats.

Young protesters in the Admiralty have said they would continue their sit-in until they got an answer. "We will sit out here and more should join us," said Joshua Wong, 15, a founder of the Scholarism group of student activists.

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