The Communist Party of China wants to put more attention and commit more resources to its goal of attracting youngsters in Hong Kong to counter the growing clamor for self-determination among the city’s youth.
But although it wants to step up its work in Hong Kong, it cannot just set up a branch in the special administrative region for that would breach the Basic Law, which strictly stipulates that no Chinese official body can interfere in Hong Kong affairs.
That’s why the Communist Youth League, a unit of the party that focuses on youth affairs, refuses to comment on the possibility of having its own office in Hong Kong in a bid to reach out directly to Hong Kong students to implement “patriotic” educational programs and exchanges.
While many students in the city refuse to be part of what they consider as Beijing’s “brainwashing” efforts, a great number of them want to join various extra-curricular activities and opportunities to visit the mainland with funding support from the SAR government.
Communist Youth League chief Qin Yizhi on Wednesday said there have been more than 140,000 “exchanges” between Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, on one side, and central government agencies and key provinces such as Fujian and Guangdong on the other.
The league wants to invite more young people from Hong Kong to join its activities, Qin said, as exchanges based on the actual needs of the youngsters.
What are the needs of the young people?
In Hong Kong, many youngsters want to live their own lives rather than to live according to the wishes of other people.
However, the League admits that its main focus is to lead youngsters, whether Chinese or Hongkongers, through its ideological education. It is the Party that oversees the youth, the League says.
To achieve such a “radical” goal, the League would use new media to promote Chinese history and culture to youngsters in Hong Kong and Macau.
The League wants to help the youth of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan in shaping their identity with the “culture of the motherland” and the “correct knowledge of ‘one country, two systems’.”
Such an approach would bridge the different cultural backgrounds of the young people by “being inclusive of differences, removing barriers and improving sense of identity”.
To lure youngsters, the League even plans to offer business and job opportunities to young people in those three places.
It is quite difficult for Hong Kong people to understand why the Communist Party is doing so many things to win the support of the next generation, but in a wrong way.
Beijing’s top leaders should understand that Hong Kong and Taiwan youngsters do not quite recognize the supremacy of the Communist Party.
In fact, they want to ward off China’s influence on the way they should live; they are not willing to show blind loyalty to Beijing in exchange for economic benefits.
China’s rising global influence has forced Hong Kong and Taiwan schools to work closely with Beijing with a certain degree of compromise on their freedom of speech and expression.
For example, Hong Kong students should show their loyalty to Beijing in order to boost their career prospects, while some Taiwan schools have signed agreements with partner schools in the mainland to avoid political issues.
Lawmaker Nathan Law, a key student leader during the Occupy campaign in 2014, stressed that money cannot buy the hearts and minds of the people.
If Beijing displays poor standards when it comes to human rights protection and the rule of law, they will find it difficult to build the sense of national pride among the young people in Hong Kong.
Law also pointed out that Hong Kong’s education authorities have tried to promote patriotic education in schools through softer approaches such as encouraging students to visit Chinese cities, attend cultural activities and share “positive” books on Chinese history.
All this could put pressure on Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam after she takes office on July 1.
While the public did not focus on education issues during her campaign, the fact is Lam does not have much freedom in forming her education policy.
In fact, Beijing wants to use education to transform Hong Kong into a truly Chinese city, just like Macau.
The Communist Party wants to lead the youth and insists that youth development is key to the country’s overall advancement.
This task will be overseen by the party’s Central Committee in coordination with the Youth League.
The Hong Kong SAR government will have to do its part in implementing this policy.
Even if the incoming administration wants to focus on livelihood programs to avoid sensitive political issues, it will have no choice but to carry out these political duties, under the guidance, of course, of state leader Leung Chun-ying and the Liaison Office.
As such, the implementation of a new version of patriotic education in Hong Kong schools looks inevitable.
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