The good news is that rebelliousness among Hong Kong’s young people is not, as once feared, the product of a CIA plot to overthrow the Chinese government using specially trained Killer Bespectacled Teenagers. The bad news is that the kids’ discontent is due to the failure of the local education system to teach students how wonderful the Communist Party is. Rather than planting sweet melons, former Beijing official Chen Zuo’er warns, our schools have been nurturing poisonous beans.
Chen Zuo’er is remembered as the Beijing official who launched scathing attacks on the pre-1997 colonial administration for increasing welfare expenditure and land supply for housing. Governor Chris Patten remarked that it was the first time he, a Conservative, had been accused of being too socialist by Communists. And, oh my, how the Mainland cadres chortled with mirth at Fei Pang’s wit.
Chen does not seem to have become any warmer and cuddlier since becoming head of a Mainland ‘think-tank’, which is presumably tasked with scaring the spoilt and ungrateful Hongkongers into obedience with technically non-official threats and insults. He suggests that our Education Secretary comes under Beijing’s supervision, and raises fears of patriotic brainwashing in class. The South China Morning Post quotes a Catholic school principal’s forthright views about how Hong Kong values critical thinking above blind obedience.
The principal, sadly, is unwilling to be named. But by attacking the education sector – and singling out Secretary Eddie Ng – Chen is daring local educators and officials to resist. The Education Bureau is an archetypal part of Hong Kong’s arrogant, smug, stuffy civil service: if Chen can accuse it of national-level misdeeds, no-one is safe. This is the squeeze. There will be no sitting on the fence or keeping your head down. Obey, or be an enemy. And where better to start than the hapless Eddie?
The Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to build a United Front have never meshed with this pluralist society, and it will be fascinating to see how far Beijing will go if and when its campaign of persecution alienates the non-committed and even turns on its own. The Hong Kong establishment can sit expressionless while some deranged Mainland paranoiac rants about evil foreign influences backing a Hong Kong ‘colour revolution’. Our local great and good can just about look the other way while Beijing hires thugs and demands abuse of the child-care system to intimidate protestors. Then the Post-Occupy Inquisition comes for the education bureaucrats – and as Niemoller put it, “…there was no-one left to speak up for me.”
Eddie will presumably squirm and hope a press statement about developing young citizens’ national identity will spare him. He has not been the most inspiring of this administration’s policy heads, but nor has he been as obnoxious as some. He would go down as a hero if he walked at this point.
I declare the weekend open with something to stiffen Eddie’s spine – a bizarre and unexpected Google result…