5 Observations on Hong Kong’s Anti-National Education Protest

by singaporearmchaircritic

This week I am bogged down with work but would like to share some thoughts on the Hong Kong anti-National Education (NE) protest as a follow-up to my earlier blog post on the issue.

First, a brief recapitulaton of events:

On 8 September 2012, a day before Hong Kong’s four-yearly election of its legislators (LegCo election), the city’s political chief Leung Chun-ying (aka CY Leung) appeared to have succumbed to pressure as he announced that it would be up to individual schools to decide if and when they should implement NE curriculum. This, as astute Hong Kongers pointed out, may be just a temporizing tactic to palliate mounting public anger over the issue ahead of the LegCo election, lest the government’s reluctance to back down harms the pro-Beijing candidates’ winning chances in the election.

Protestors, including concerned parents, teachers and students, had marched in a rally on 29 July. This took place barely a month after the annual march on July 1st, the day commemorating Hong Kong’s return to China.

When the government failed to respond to protestors’ demands, three elementary school students of a student activist group “Scholarism” (学民思潮) embarked on a 72-hour hunger strike on 30 August. The act touched the hearts of many and prompted more hunger strikers, including pioneer activists now in their sixties, to join in.

At the same time, supporters donning black surrounded the government building for consecutive nights, ending their sit-in only on 8 September when the government made some concessions. Protestors, however, vowed to turn their opposition to the NE the into a sustained movement till they achieve their aim of making the government remove the NE plan entirely.

Five noteworthy points about the anti-NE protest:

1. Protest ≠ Chaos

Many Singaporeans have the conception that protestors are trouble-makers or an unruly lot. The Hong Kong anti-NE protestors were anything but. On one night of the sit-in at the government building, a protestor fainted. When the ambulance arrived, thousands of protestors on site spontaneously dispersed to both sides of the road to make way for it. See for yourself.

We Singaporeans need to break out of this mindset that protest = chaos.

2. Articulate Hong Kong youths and children

Watch the videos (with English subtitles) and see how well-spoken and expressive they are. You would be impressed. I couldn’t help but wonder what’s with Singapore’s education that does not promote eloquence.



3. Rice bowl versus conscience

Given that many Hong Kong celebrities have now moved their careers up north to China, only a handful dared to speak out against NE. Predictably, the most outspoken few received threats pressuring them to shut-up. A singer received a Chinese text message that roughly translates as “Mess with me and I will mess with you. You are accountable for your action and responsible for the consequences” from an unidentified source.

While keeping silent is understandable when one’s rice bowl is at stake, there would be some who simply couldn’t wait to a**kiss Communist China. For shame.

4. Government’s dirty tricks

The protestors were too orderly for the government’s liking. So much so that it resorted to hiring freelance actors to provoke protestors so that the police could find an excuse to disperse them.

No wonder China now has to spend more than RMB 700 billion on “social management” – a euphemistic term for repression and crackdown on dissidents. Amazingly this surpasses its national defense spending.

It was also exposed that Hong Kong’s education bureau had instructed the principals of all government schools to keep a record of students and teachers who participated in the anti-NE protest, and note down teachers’ attitude towards class boycott. The Chinese Communist Party’s rule by fear tactics now extend to Hong Kong.

5. Progressive civilians versus a regressive government

So who needs to be re-educated really? And fancy extolling yourself as a “progressive, selfless and united” party. Tsk tsk.