China signaled a new push to institute “patriotic” education in Hong Kong, potentially reviving a third-rail initiative shelved after mass student demonstrations seven years ago.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders this week urged educational changes in the territory, said Shen Chunyao (沈春耀), chairman of the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions Basic Law Committee, a group responsible for Hong Kong’s charter.
At a news conference in Beijing yesterday, Shen discussed a new communique from the party’s Central Standing Committee that included a vague pledge to “to establish and perfect the legal system and enforcement mechanisms” to protect national security in Hong Kong and Macau.
“We will strengthen education of the constitution and the Basic Law, as well as China’s national conditions, in Hong Kong and Macau society, especially among public officials and young people,” Shen said. “Through historical and cultural education, our compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau should enhance their national awareness and patriotism.”
Shen said that authorities would also seek to strengthen protections against foreign interference in Hong Kong — something that Chinese officials have long blamed for stoking dissent in the global financial center.
China “will resolutely guard against and curb foreign forces from interfering in and sabotaging Hong Kong and Macau affairs such as engaging in separatist, subversive and infiltration activities,” Shen added.
Educational and national security reforms have proven two of China’s biggest frustrations since regaining sovereignty over Hong Kong, prompting some of the territory’s biggest political crises.
In 2012, mass protests forced the Beijing-backed government to shelve a planned “moral and national education” curriculum that encouraged Chinese patriotism.
More than four months of protests — many organized on campuses or led by students — renewed calls for educational changes from pro-establishment figures.
In China, the CCP exercises strict control over what is taught in schools of all levels. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of party rule on Oct. 1, China’s top leaders ordered renewed focus on “patriotic education,” emphasizing a program first enacted in 1994 and calling for “deep, lasting and vivid patriotic education among the young people.”
The Hong Kong Legislative Council has failed to institute sweeping national security legislation as required by Article 23 of its Basic Law. The proposal, which among other things would enact laws to “prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the region,” has been on hold since an earlier bout of mass protests in 2003.
Even before the most recent protests erupted in June, many of China’s critics in Hong Kong saw the passage of Article 23 as Beijing’s top legislative priority.
Chinese officials have repeatedly accused the US, the UK and other unnamed foreign countries as acting as a “black hand” behind the protests, citing official statements and contacts between protest leaders and foreign diplomats and lawmakers.
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