Hong Kong tycoons never miss an opportunity to proclaim their loyalty to Beijing as they know too well what could be at stake if they run foul of the Communist Party leadership.
So it is not surprising that now, as China holds its annual parliamentary sessions, we are hearing some fresh comments from the usual suspects on topics such as nationalism and cultural identity.
Among those involved in the latest “patriotic” endeavor is billionaire Henry Cheng, the elder son of New World Development founder Cheng Yu-tung.
The tycoon, a delegate to the Chinese People Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said on Thursday in Beijing that Hong Kong youth must learn to love China.
People who don’t love and trust the motherland should perhaps leave the city and go elsewhere, Cheng said, while calling on Beijing to step up efforts for “patriotic education” in Hong Kong.
He made the comments during an interaction with Hong Kong reporters who had gathered in Beijing to cover the National People’s Congress (NPC) session and the earlier CPPCC meeting.
“Patriotic education” has indeed become a hot topic again in Hong Kong, with reports surfacing that schools are under pressure to inculcate the “right values and mindset” among the youth.
In the latest incident, the Sacred Heart Canossian School was said to have been teaching primary school students a “red song” called “I love China”.
The lyrics, which include phrases such as “China is my mother” and “I love China”, are clearly an attempt to brainwash children, critics say. A mother has complained that her child now considers both China and her as “mother”, according to a media report.
Coming back to the tycoons, observers point to a big irony in the statements calling for national education.
Most of the super-rich who are propagating the virtues of learning more about the mainland have themselves opted to study abroad and receive Western education, critics say.
Cheng, for instance, studied in Canada where he received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business.
Another example is Raymond Lee, chairman of Lee & Man Paper.
Lee, who recently urged the Hong Kong government to do more with regard to patriotic education, completed his tertiary education in Canada, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science from the University of British Columbia.
Suggestions by Cheng and Lee to boost national education have come in the wake of the Occupy pro-democracy protests by students last year.
The tycoons say the Occupy campaign showed that Hong Kong youth lack understanding on China and what it means to be part of the country.
But what the businessmen seem to be forgetting is that Hong Kong people do, in fact, know Chinese history too well and have many issues with the systems across the border.
Many of the city’s residents actually came here in the years after the Communist Party took the reins of power in the mainland.
Things such as justice, fairness, freedom and transparency have become the city’s core values. These were the also the choice of the Chinese immigrants who moved here during the ’50s and later years.
Given this backdrop, is it fair on the part of the tycoons to find fault with the youth for their views, critics ask.
Loving the nation shouldn’t be equated with supporting the government. In Japan, for example, people are patriotic and respect the Emperor, but they can still be vocal opponents of the government and the prime minister.
But in China, the Communist Party has mixed up the concept of patriotism with loyalty to the ruling regime, a thing most people in Hong Kong won’t accept.
Tycoons and some political groups in Hong Kong are pushing locals to accept the Communist Party rule, citing the benefits from China’s strong economy. But the youth will resist any “patriotic” push that seeks to hide the ugly side of the Chinese regime.
Hong Kong is home for more than 7 million people, some born here and others who had migrated from China and other places to seek a better way of life.
Given the city’s embedded values and its status as an open international place, any suggestion to link residency rights to one’s political stance toward China isn’t acceptable.
Of course, some of the comments from the tycoons could be just rhetoric aimed at pleasing Beijing, but given the current fraught environment in Hong Kong, the remarks were certainly avoidable.
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