Date
25 September 2017
Top officials attend a ceremony at the PLA naval base on Stonecutters Island. The Army Cadets program boasts Leung Chun-ying and PLA Hong Kong garrison head Maj. Gen. Tan Benhong as patrons, among others. Photo: HKEJ
Top officials attend a ceremony at the PLA naval base on Stonecutters Island. The Army Cadets program boasts Leung Chun-ying and PLA Hong Kong garrison head Maj. Gen. Tan Benhong as patrons, among others. Photo: HKEJ

Is the PLA trying to invade Hong Kong schools?

Hong Kong parents are getting edgy again over signs the government is trying to revive the stalled national education program.

They fear a new uniformed youth group, called Hong Kong Army Cadets, is intended to promote Beijing-style patriotism in schools.

Interestingly, the Army Cadets are backed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), raising concern about the Communist Party’s push to raise a generation of Chinese patriots in the former British colony.

Some could argue that the PLA’s role in the youth cadet program is harmless but parents are wary about the Chinese army being involved in the raising of their children.

For example, Army Cadets take an oath committing themselves to the motherland and to the service of Hong Kong.

Parents are also struck by the symbolism — Army Cadets dress in formal PLA uniform. Children will receive Chinese style military marching training. Existing uniformed groups will be trained British-style.

Patriotic education is on top the agenda of Leung Chun-ying’s administration, but until now, the PLA has been viewed as having no part in it.

The Basic Law states that the PLA has no official responsibility in Hong Kong other than national defense, disaster relief or to help maintain public order.

There is no threat to Hong Kong security, no calamity and no anarchy in our streets.

In a larger sense, the PLA’s role in the school activities of young Hong Kong people is a breach of Beijing’s promised autonomy for Hong Kong.

With its detailed plan to penetrate schools, the Army Cadets program has become a new tool for pushing the national education curriculum.

The government argues that the program is designed to pave the way toward a brighter future for young people.

But some political observers say it’s intended to work as a talent farm to “grow” outstanding pro-Beijing citizens. These young people will ultimately swear faith and allegiance to the Communist Party.

The Army Cadets program could be Beijing’s answer to the political awakening of young people during the 79-day democracy protests.

That’s consistent with a Hong Kong government that is losing patience with what it sees as the youth’s western-influenced mindset.

But that’s only the beginning. No one knows what impact this initiative might have on the wider community.

Hong Kong doesn’t need anything that will deepen divisions among its citizens.

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SC/AC/RA

EJ Insight writer

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