Now get back to your long division

As if the Hong Kong government hasn’t enough misguided, unpopular and embarrassing horrors on its plate, here comes a plan to introduce something called Moral and National Education into schools. Worriers will see this as a plot to brainwash the kiddies with Communist propaganda, while leftist patriots will acclaim a long-overdue measure to correct the local community’s inbred alienation from the People’s Republic of China. In reality, it looks more like ‘Article 23 Lite’: a largely symbolic exercise to appease local pro-Beijing elements and the central government itself. Indeed, it provides the administration, and anyone connected with it who may have ambitions for high office from mid-2012, with something patriotic to point to if anyone criticizes the lack of action on the security legislation required by the Basic Law.

National education has been the subject of extensive blather for some time. A recent example was a symposium from Hell in which colonial British-trained bureaucrat Education Secretary Michael Suen had to wax eloquent about “cultivating students’ love for the motherland” in the presence of mainland officials and local United Front types.

Defenders of Hong Kong exceptionalism and autonomy will see this proposal as the thin end of the wedge, part of a far wider strategy to gradually ‘Mainlandize’ Hong Kong through high-profile sports events, visits from astronauts, the swamping of the city with Mandarin-speaking tourists, and scare stories about the lack of economic integration. They will note that this proposal cleverly bundles the promotion of national pride with the barely related but far more respectable topic of individual moral values.

The Pro-Beijing camp will probably be too happy that the government is singing its tune to find fault, but the grouchiest Communist loyalists could also find plenty to complain about. As the Standard points out, there will be no politically correct guidelines on what teachers should teach about modern China (damning indictments of one-party dictatorship would apparently be acceptable in class). The subject will not be tested, so parents will tell kids to ignore it. No extra teachers will be hired, so the subject is already detested by the oh-so-overworked saintly folk who will have to give the lessons. The proposal is all thin and no wedge.

One clue that this is mainly for the sake of appearances is that during a rummage around the consultation material for this proposal we find that, as of this morning, the content of this page does not provide English version. Non-Chinese speakers’ kids probably do not attend the schools that will be affected, but it is usual for official public documentation on important matters to be bilingual. It is also noticeable that official flimflam aimed primarily at flattering or appeasing Beijing officials and their local fan club (typically waffle about cross-border cooperation) often appears in Chinese only.

In case anyone still thinks our leaders are taking this seriously, check out the photographic collage used to publicize civic and national education. Even by the standards of this modest art form – even by the standards of the Hong Kong government’s employment of this modest art form – it is a truly nasty thing to behold…

Finally, there is that little matter of how easy it really is to brainwash kids, especially through their school syllabus. Even the Catholics, who claim to have mastered the trick, have graduated millions of devout atheists from their establishments. However sweet and obedient the children may look as they sit attentively at their desks, what are they really going to think when someone armed with cartoon character-infested teaching materials tells them that today they will be learning what their national identity is?

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13 Responses to Now get back to your long division

  1. Cretin Wong says:

    The typical middle-class (but aspiring to more) Chinese family has 1 daddy, 1 mummy, 2 sons (daughters have mysteriously been avoided somehow), 1 broad stashed away somewhere, at least 1 overseas passport, at least 1 overseas property, 1 pricey German car and 1 home-made SUV for practical purposes.

  2. Stephen says:

    Now that Rita Fan has been instructed to run for CE your photographic collage of her should fetch top dollar.
    In 2017 will we look back on her term in office and say “well she never really wanted the job” – That sounds familiar …

  3. Longtimenosee says:

    Being Chinese is a great thing.
    Being part of China is a great thing.

    Being part of the mainland, however, is a horrible horrible prospect.

    I am sure that we all understand the difference implied.

  4. Maugrim says:

    “The curriculum will develop in primary pupils the sense of belonging to the motherland and Chinese traditional moral values such as filial piety, while the secondary curriculum will cover China’s important achievements and universal values such as democracy.”

    It is about China isn’t it? Just checking. The lesson involving democracy should take about 5 minutes.

  5. Sir Crispin says:

    “We don’t need no education; we don’t need no thought control.”

  6. anon says:

    Thanks to CCP, being part of China is good (not necessarily great).
    Otherwise, being Chinese was being the Sick Man of Asia. Remember?

  7. Lucas O'Gara says:

    It’s tempting to downplay the brainwashing of Hong Kong because it has been gradual up to now (frog, boiling water, etc.) and also because the alternative (i.e. facing the fact that it’s happening) is disquieting and disappointing.

    Locals genuinely are forgetting why their families upped sticks and fled to HK as refugees a few decades ago but awareness of the Opium War, Sick Man of Asia stuff, etc. from 100-150 years ago is continually increasing. If your contact with HK Chinese people is limited primarily to returned [A/B/C]BCs, relatively cosmopolitan high-level corporate types, and a few words here and there with the clerk at the 711 who tops up your Octopus card, then you’re not going to necessarily notice the transformation from a disinterested live-and-let-live attitude to simmering xenophobic mentality that is going on within a non-negligible swath of the population.

    As for overworked teachers, their general sentiment that they are overworked is precisely what will lead them, as a group, to completely rely on government-provided teaching materials. Government-mandated syllabi won’t be necessary since most schools will end up using the Mainland-blessed materials furnished by the govt. and press-ganging their students into participating in all sorts of lovely national-consciousness-raising activities and entering North-Korean-style contests where they practice singing the Mainland national anthem and darning comrades socks a la Lei Feng.

    The “international” schools, ESF schools, etc. won’t participate in that stuff and will maintain neutral and generally historically accurate curricula. That will feed into expats’ lack of awareness of what’s occurring.

    At some point in the not-too-distant future, when there’s another international incident or a moment of heightened tension between the PRC and USA, Westerners in HK may find things turning ugly here.

  8. anon says:

    Jeez. Why do some types (uninformed? paranoid?) apparently feel “endangered”, by China’s long-sought (150-200 years) recovery of good health? FYI, economic health is the GLOBAL GOAL of ALL countries, helped by supranational agencies like UN, IMF, WB. Success is good for ALL, east, west, north, south, with contributions from all. Amnesia (national amnesia included) is NOT an asset: “those who cannot remember, are condemned to repeat the past…”. But perhaps it is simply impossible to communicate with with the Uninformed/ paranoid…

  9. anon says:


  10. Je ne suis malade says:

    Okay, devil’s advocate here: I am a European, long-time expat in HK. I also lived in Guangdong for several years, quite recently. And let me tell you that ‘over there’ isn’t really that much different from right here. They are catching up really fast. Their kids are studying overseas. There is McD, Watsonsi, Pizza Hut and Giordano in every mall, just like here. The roads are clogged with Mercedes and SUVs just like here.

    Yes, there are differences. You can get a 3-bedroom + 2 bathrooms, really spacious apartment for HK$ 3000- per month. You pay $ 25 for a large US-beef T-bone steak. And the beer is just as cold as in LKF. If only they would learn how to bake good European bread and stop loading it with tons of sugar. Oh, and something else: you cannot buy mustard in China.

  11. RPeters says:

    anon (May 6) questions why some uninformed and paranoid types feel endangered -perhaps it’s the nature of the beast on so many levels. I don’t agree that all those with misgivings about the Mainland are paranoid.
    The CCP simply has a dubious track record and aspirations for China that may not be at one with ‘western values’ (whatever they are). Economic and Societal growth is to be applauded, but at what cost to our planet? (I don’t have an answer to that one.)
    Perhaps those Amnesic qualities exist on all sides. It’s nice to celebrate who you are, but if that means creating a tirade of ultra-nationalist invective with which to a shout down all opposition, then perhaps we might have stepped backwards. Ai Weiwei is a criminal, after all, despite his attempts to communicate with the uninformed and paranoid.

  12. ichbinauchgesund says:

    hmm…wot hoppened?

  13. ichbinauchgesund says:

    … THOUGHT I said (earlier, attempted post): “good to know some (hopefully many, hopefully from all parts of the world) expats are happy, living & working in China. Likewise for Chinese people going overseas”.

    Ahem, censorship is obviously a common phenomenon… (i.e. not CCP monopoly!). I do wonder why?

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