The Hong Kong government has set a series of new rules for schools to teach the importance of national security right from basic education. Thus, from the age of six, students will have to learn about subjects such as the risks of subversion and collusion with foreign forces.
The new rules, released by the Education Ministry on Thursday night (4), say Beijing’s plans for Hong Kong go beyond dissenting silence and aim to further reform local society.
“National security is of great importance. Teachers should not treat this as a controversial issue,” stresses the new directive. Teachers should “make it clear that protecting national security is the responsibility of all citizens.”
Students in the first grades of elementary school will learn to sing and respect the Chinese anthem, and take basic classes on the four main crimes under the Security Law, which include terrorism and attempted secession. The themes will be explored in the last part of basic education.
Schools are encouraged to organize various play activities, such as puppet theater and board games, to address the problem.
Kindergarten children will need to learn the importance of Chinese traditions, such as festivals, music, and food, but will not take lessons in national security crimes.
Schools should also prevent students and teachers from engaging in activities considered political, such as singing certain songs or war cries and wearing clothing and accessories related to certain causes.
Teachers and principals will also have to inspect notice boards and remove books from their libraries which, in the official opinion, could endanger national security. They can call the police if they feel it is necessary.
The Chinese central government imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020, in response to a wave of months-long protests against the government and against China. The new law established the possibility of imprisonment for anyone who criticized the government. As a result, the groups which organized the protests dissolved and several activists were arrested.
A former British colony formed by China in 1997, Hong Kong offers more freedoms to its citizens than the rest of the country, but this condition has been gradually lifted by the Chinese government.
The new educational guidelines have been seen as a gamble by the Chinese government to try to shape the thinking of young people. During the 2019 and 2020 protests, there were many teenagers among the activists.
The application of the new standards raises many doubts. Education experts point out that the National Security Law is somewhat vague on what activities are considered threats, which will make it somewhat difficult for teachers to teach it.
Ip Kin-yuen, head of the teachers’ union, said the guidelines will create uncertainty and anxiety among teachers, and restrictive education will not boost student development or critical thinking.
For Wong, mother of schoolchildren, the new law creates a climate of fear. “I’m nervous. They shouldn’t be taking this to classrooms,” Reuters reported.
Some parents were not opposed. “It’s a good start, no matter who you are, you have to love your country,” said Feng, the mother of six.
The Education Department said private and international schools may have different curricula, but will be responsible “for helping students gain a proper understanding of national security.”