It is better to travel far than to read voluminously. As they say, seeing is believing.
However, for those who want to know China well, a huge dose of independent thinking may come in handy.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has called on Hong Kong youth to travel to the mainland more frequently to gain a better understanding of the nation.
Speaking at the inauguration of a pro-Beijing youth association on Sunday, Leung said it’s not enough for Hong Kong secondary school students to visit China only twice during their school term.
As Chinese citizens, Hong Kong youth have the responsibility to know more about their country, he said.
And since China is growing fast, they should travel to the country more frequently to be able to catch up with the frenetic changes happening across the border.
Leung concluded his speech by saying that the government is working on a plan to enable students to know more about China’s glorious history and current development in an objective and comprehensive way.
The plan, of course, includes enabling students to visit the mainland more than twice during their school term.
From an educational perspective, there’s nothing wrong with such a plan.
Anyone who is interested in knowing the real China should visit its bustling urban areas as well as its vast rural villages.
Their travels will allow them to gain a first-hand perception of the rapid changes occurring across the land.
However, there is a lot to be suspicious about when the government, which is unabashedly pro-Beijing, wants to spend aggressively to enable students to visit China more often and for local schools to organize study tours for the purpose of experiencing life over there.
In fact, the government has allocated HK$100 million to allow Hong Kong students to visit China at least once.
Some media have labeled these study tours as brainwashing tours as they are not designed to allow the students to gain an independent understanding of China.
Instead, they will only show the pleasant aspects of life in China and bombard the students with propaganda about the country’s glorious past and proud present, and what the Communist Party is doing to ensure its bright future.
Since 1949, when it came to power, the Communist Party has used education as a tool to maintain its iron grip on the people.
As such, these study tours won’t allow the young generation to know more about the disasters that it created in the past decades, including the Cultural Revolution in the ’60s and ’70s as well as the June 4, 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square.
Of course, students could benefit from these study tours. Their experiences in China will prompt them to know more.
It is this inquisitive nature and independent-mindedness of the students that prompted them to raise questions about the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland.
And that could be the reason why many young people don’t want to embrace Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong.
Students and teachers are also concerned about the injection of politics into the city’s education policy. This violates the independence of the academic community and wreaks havoc on the professionalism of its administration and faculty.
However, the Leung government seems keen on breaking these time-honored values and tradition and turn the campus into a political battlefield, where both students and teachers feel growing pressure to toe the Beijing line.
One instance is the introduction of teaching materials on the Basic Law, the city’s constitutional foundation under Beijing rule.
These materials promote the Beijing’s interpretation of the “one country, two systems” principle, which is that Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” comes from the authority of the central government.
In effect, the government wants to reshape the thinking of Hong Kong youth so that they will recognize Hong Kong as part of China.
Under the Leung administration, schools are an important battlefield for the chief executive to implement Beijing’s patriotic education, which is part of the goal to turn Hong Kong youngsters into Beijing supporters.
Teachers are also keen on pushing this type of education as they seek more government funding, turning education into a business operation.
Hong Kong’s success in the past decades was not due to the political games being played by our politicians.
It is a product of individual talents and skills, and an educational system that trains them without any political intervention.
But now the government apparently wants to turn school campuses into political indoctrination camps that will turn students into rabid Beijing supporters.
That is why it is all the more important for students, teachers and parents to join forces and promote the importance of independent and critical thinking.
It’s our only defense against political intervention.
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