Organizers said that as many as 90,000 protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest the introduction of “national education” classes in Hong Kong. The demonstration was organized by parents, teachers and students’ groups, who are all concerned that the new curriculum will serve as a form of brainwashing in favor of the Chinese one-party system.
China’s education minister Eddie Ng told organizers on Saturday that any demonstrations would not slow down the process of education reform in Hong Kong. Despite this foreboding remark, marchers wove their way through the streets on Sunday holding banners and chanting slogans such as “No thought control!” and “Preserve one country, two systems!” The New York Times reports. They eventually made their way to the new government headquarters.
Hong Kong has played a unique role in the fabric of China. It was a British colony until 1997, when it was reintegrated into the Chinese system. During that transition, the metropolis was able to retain many of its civil rights, as well as multiple political parties and commercial and social transactions, therefore granting Hong Kong a “one country, two system” policy.
Now many citizens of Hong Kong feel that they are not particularly close to mainland Chinese culture. Earlier this month protesters took to the streets to demand better political options and to end corruption both in Hong Kong and throughout China. The Washington Post points out that residents of Hong Kong have increasingly lost faith in the one-party system based in Beijing.
The central education ministry has affirmed that they want students in Hong Kong to learn more about the Chinese system and to feel more connected to the mainland. Critics partaking in the march on Sunday say that the new curriculum is like brainwashing, and will only serve to encourage one-party rule.
The New York Times notes that the new education materials will include a handbook entitled “The China Model,” which portrays the Communist Party as unified, progressive and united, while it will downplay much of the brutality of the regime over the last 60 years. One protester stated her concern about the new education initiative, which is set to begin later this year in schools throughout Hong Kong:
Young children really listen to and believe what their teachers say to them… Their early role models affect them greatly. Some people say we must have national education, but what kind do we need?
The protesters included many families and the demonstration remained peaceful for the most part. Very few pro-China demonstrations occurred on Sunday but one official for the China Civic Education Promotion Society did ruffle some feathers on Saturday before the protest by stating:
A brain needs washing if there is a problem, just as clothes need washing if they’re dirty, and a kidney needs washing if it’s sick.
The statement by Jiang Yudui highlights exactly why so many protesters took to the streets demanding freer education and separation from the central Chinese government; many are terrified that their children will be brainwashed and forced into a system they disagree with. Despite the massive protest Beijing’s government has remained staunch on their national education plans.
Photo Credit: HKFotoPoint