The South China Morning Post juxtaposes articles by radio and print commentator Albert Cheng and National People’s Congress deputy Lau Nai-keung on what is starting to look like ex-Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s revenge – national education.
The outspoken, semi-flamboyant Cheng is an old friend of Donald and is at the free-thinking end of the Donald-tycoon-bureaucracy spectrum that ran Hong Kong until CY Leung became CE. (He joined Donald cronies Ron Arculli and David Li in founding a radio station designed to make Sir Bow-Tie look more liberal about handing out broadcasting licences.) Lau is an ultra-patriot and supporter of CY (and fellow organic food fan) who has detested the pro-democrats – and by extension most of the Hong Kong population – ever since the city’s first political grouping split along what are now Democratic and Liberal Party lines in the late 70s-early 80s.
Cheng sees national education (or MNE) as a Beijing-ordered plot to brainwash Hong Kong into loving the Communist Party. Lau essentially sees the anti-national education movement as part of a splittist US/Taiwan (Vatican/Dalai Lama/etc) conspiracy to keep China enslaved by evil foreigners. Both are heavy on bold assertions and light on evidence and analysis. Cheng probably doesn’t entirely believe all he says; much of the anti-MNE rhetoric we are hearing is aimed at getting you to vote for pro-democrats in next month’s Legislative Council elections, or to make life hard for CY. The patriots who support Beijing-sympathetic textbooks in schools are mostly more discreet than Lau but, like him, sincerely believe what they are saying.
It is no secret that Beijing advised Donald Tsang a couple of years or so ago that Hong Kong needed to be less alienated from the nation and the Communist Party. Since the party is perfect, this sense of alienation must be a failing on the part of the Hong Kong people. If we go back to the time the MNE project was launched, we will recall how the whole thing looked trashy, unconvincing and contrived. Almost as if Donald had said, OK let’s put some flashy-looking crap together to please the old guys in Beijing and make them think we’re getting kids to love the motherland. By making it high-profile, rather than subtly inserting China studies into existing civics classes, officials were setting it up to be controversial – maybe out of over-eagerness to please Beijing and/or out of arrogant disdain for public opinion. (Or, we can fantasize, it was a deliberate act of sabotage by ‘two-systems’ separatists in the bureaucracy, strings being pulled by former Chief Secretary Anson Chan. The mishandling of Article 23 often looked a bit deliberate.)
For patriots, however, MNE was a deadly serious cause. Once a persecuted and mocked minority in foreign-run Hong Kong, the pro-Beijing faithful are finally able to forcibly inject a bit of the race’s universal creed into government, Catholic and other schools. Opposition to MNE makes them livid; this is supposed to be ‘one country’ now, all 1.307 billion together under one god, yet patriots are still barred from proselytizing among this small, stubborn group of heathens. The only explanation must involve something unseen, something evil – indeed satanic. To Lau the mouth-frothing Taliban, those who refuse to convert can only be put to the sword.
Will mainstream Hong Kong public opinion suddenly see the light, drop to their knees and believe that schools that collapse on kids are good, that persecuting blind lawyers is good, that poisoned milk is good? Sounds like it would take a miracle.