Tens of Thousands Protest ‘Patriotic’ Education in Hong Kong

Posted July 29th, 2012 at 3:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents have joined a protest against a government plan for Chinese patriotism classes in local schools.

The protesters Sunday called on the government to drop the plan, which they fear will lead to the brainwashing of children with Communist propaganda.

Organizers said the march from the city's Victoria Park to the government headquarters drew 90,000 people, while police gave a lower estimate of 32,000.

Thousands of parents brought their children to the march, some pushing strollers with infants and others walking with students of elementary and high school age. The protesters also included many teachers and pro-democracy activists.

Hong Kong's government is encouraging elementary schools to adopt a new curriculum in September, with classes aimed at building a sense of national pride and belonging toward China. It rejects protesters' complaints that the curriculum amounts to brainwashing.

This mass protest is the latest sign of growing public discontent with Beijing's perceived interference in the former British colony. Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 under a Beijing promise for the territory to retain a high degree of autonomy.

More than 100,000 people joined an annual pro-democracy march on July 1, the highest turnout in eight years. Many of the protesters demanded the resignation of the city's new leader, Leung Chun-ying, who had taken office earlier that day after being selected by a committee comprised mostly of Beijing loyalists.

The city's deputy leader, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, responded to Sunday's protest by announcing the formation of a committee to monitor the implementation of the patriotism classes. The government wants elementary schools to adopt the classes on a voluntary basis for a three-year trial period, before making them compulsory in 2015.

The new curriculum includes a teaching booklet called “The China Model” that praises the one-party rule of the Chinese Communist Party and makes no mention of its deadly 1989 crackdown on protesters in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.