Over the past couple of weeks, university and college students in Hong Kong have launched a series of strikes aimed at forcing the government of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) to withdraw its order to implement a “moral and national education” curriculum in primary and secondary schools, and for the time being there is no indication that the students are going to drop their campaign.
Hong Kong is a juicy morsel in China’s mouth. Originally, the Beijing government thought that, having retrieved this choice cut from its former British colonial rulers, it could just sit back and enjoy the meal.
China’s leaders probably never imagined that, 15 years later, they would still not have managed to swallow it, or that they would find the meat to be full of prickly little bones that stick in the throat. In Hong Kong, the “China model” has run up against serious obstacles.
The current wave of controversy in Hong Kong, which is officially a Special Administrative Region of China, can be traced back to May. That is when the Hong Kong government, acting on instructions from Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), set in motion a plan to introduce “national education” into the school curriculum this month, the start of the new academic year.
Much to the government’s consternation, after the content of a 30-odd-page China Model National Conditions Teaching Manual was made public, it caused an uproar among parents, students and teachers, and the row is still going on.
The controversial passages in the teaching guide contain the following points: It says that China follows a people-based ideology and has implemented socialist democracy, and that this system has four main democratic structures.
It says that the “Chinese model” is an ideal system that takes the people as its foundation.
It claims that Chinese government officials are selected according to their performance and evaluations, and that this merit-based system of appointing officials, inherited from the imperial civil service examination system, has produced an advanced, selfless and united ruling group that ensures stable governance.
The handbook contrasts this system with the multiparty kind of democracy practiced in Europe and the US, which it says involves destructive rivalry between two main parties while the public suffers the consequences.
The Hong Kong public reacted by denouncing the proposed curriculum as “brainwashing.” Leung has since canceled the three-year limit for implementing the curriculum and said that moral and national education will not be introduced as a school subject for five years. Elections for Hong Kong’s parliament, the Legislative Council, are also over — but the student protest movement continues, as people demand that the curriculum be withdrawn altogether.
Students in Hong Kong refuse to be brainwashed. From the descriptions of the “China model” quoted above, it can clearly be seen that they are saying “no” to being forced to study bogus notions.
Hong Kong was ruled by Britain for a long time, so the public has a good understanding of how party politics works. For Hong Kongers, accepting China’s definition of Western democracy would be no more sensible than asking a eunuch for advice about sex.
This is by no means the only bogus notion that has been foisted on Hong Kong. Former Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) had promised that Hong Kong would be run on a “one country, two systems” model and that this system would remain unchanged for 50 years.