The 'patriotic' education of Hong Kong schoolchildren
After the law that punishes offenses against the national anthem and the Chinese flag, indications arrive from the Office for Education: listen to the anthem "with solemnity" and "dignity". At least 17% of those arrested in pro-democracy demonstrations are under the age of 18. Sham Shui Po demonstration in the school yard. A human chain in Tseung Kwan O canceled.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Young people from Hong Kong who took part in anti-extradition and pro-democracy demonstrations this year have long been targeted by the government and the secretariat for education. Now legislative provisions and ordinances have been issued to educate them about patriotism.
On 11 June, Executive Chief Carrie Lam signed a law approved by the Legco (the parliament of the territory) under which anyone who offends the Chinese national anthem or distorts the words in parody, is punishable by up to 3 years of prison or a fine of 50 thousand local dollars (about 5755 euros).
Yesterday, the Office for Education issued a circular stating that when attending ceremonies where the anthem is sung, secondary school students and teachers must “stand solemnly and behave with dignity." “[They should] observe the relevant etiquette while the national anthem is being played and sung to show their respect for the country and demonstrate their good quality as nationals,” it said.
It continued: “Schools should educate students about the national flag, the national anthem and the national emblem of their own country. This is part of moral, civic and national education, and helps enhance students’ sense of national identity.”
Throughout the past year, with the government's silence on the extradition law, police violence, threats and accusations of terrorism by Beijing, on several occasions young people mocked the Chinese flag during the demonstrations, sometimes associating it with the image of a swastika reminiscent of Nazism ("Chinazi"); other times some young people burned the red flag with the five stars.
In all these months the young people have chosen to support the freedoms of Hong Kong and risk prison. Out of about 8 thousand arrested for demonstrations, at least 17% are young people under the age of 18. These include boys and girls from junior school.
It is difficult to believe that laws and punishments alone will change the situation. Also because the anti-patriotism of young people towards China has social and not only ideological roots.
In recent days, despite the threats from the police not to rally in groups of more than eight people, and the ban on political demonstrations in school, at least 80 Ying Wa high school students in Sham Shui Po, during the break, gathered in the schoolyard and sang slogans in favor of Hong Kong independence and the hymn "Glory to Hong Kong". The youth wanted to remember the first anniversary of the death of Leung Ling-kit, who died while hanging a banner for democracy.
The school and the Office for Education have promised to take action.
On the other hand, today, a human chain planned by the students of the Tseung Kwan O district was canceled for fear of the police who had threatened "mass arrests".