24 April 2019
Zhou Nan stressed the need for national education to counter the "brainwashing" of generations of Hong Kong people by the British during the colonial era.  Photos: RTHK, Xinhua
Zhou Nan stressed the need for national education to counter the "brainwashing" of generations of Hong Kong people by the British during the colonial era. Photos: RTHK, Xinhua

Does Beijing want to ‘counter-brainwash’ our schoolchildren?

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty, several senior officials and prominent personalities from the mainland have spoken glowingly of Beijing’s efforts to make the territory a better place since 1997, while blaming some people for making it more difficult for the central government to rule the city.

There is, for example, Zhou Nan, a former director of the Xinhua News Agency, who bewailed the more than 150 years of “brainwashing” of Hong Kong people by the British during the colonial period.

This has resulted in the people’s acceptance of colonial rule and deprived them of the right to know about their nation.

That being the case, Zhou said, there is a need to push national education to uphold the Chinese values and reverse what the British had done.

“The young generations have been receiving colonial education, from one generation to another. They were brainwashed about colonialism for multiple generations,” Zhou said, adding that this is the reason why mainland officials are not surprised by the emergence of the Hong Kong independence mindset.

In order to win back the hearts and minds of the next generation, Zhou said the government should strengthen national education, particularly about the nation’s history and the current events.

From his point of view, education is a tool for political struggle, to fight against the deeply rooted colonial mentality of the people.

Beijing should take immediate and effective action to expunge this “toxic” thinking from the minds of the youth, he said.

Separately, Wang Zhenmin, the legal chief of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said the people should wake up from the “illusion” that they can develop a different set of politics from China under “one country, two systems” principle.

“All politics come from the central government,” Wang stressed.

He said that 20 years after the handover, a small group of people in Hong Kong still has yet to accept the truth that the city has returned to Chinese sovereignty permanently.

“Hong Kong has never had independent politics. It followed Britain before the handover and it has to follow the mainland after that.”

Indeed, Beijing wants Hong Kong people to accept its rule and stop the growth of the independence mindset.

It also wants to determine the course of Hong Kong’s history, rather than to respect the provisions of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong, as well as the Basic Law, which sought to guarantee a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” policy which Beijing has committed to implement in the special administrative region.

Against this backdrop, it’s not difficult to understand why Beijing is pushing for the implementation of a national or patriotic education in Hong Kong.

Beijing believes that many Hong Kong people still refuse to accept Beijing’s sovereignty in the territory as they had been thoroughly brainwashed by the British colonial government before 1997. 

Beijing believes that Hong Kong should implement national education to reverse this brainwashing, and thus build a new generation of Hong Kong people with patriotic mindset and positive view of the central authorities.

But, as a matter of fact, almost all schools in the territory have incorporated lessons related to Hong Kong’s relationship with China.

However, these lessons are meant to teach students about the various facets of living in Hong Kong, and certainly not to brainwash them into becoming unquestioning followers of the Communist Party of China.

Local parents and teachers do not see the need for patriotic education; all they want is for the students to get rid of politics.

But Beijing has started to intervene in the city’s educational system, as it has done so in other aspects of Hong Kong life, by building closer links between local and mainland education authorities.

Also, local schools are now required to apportion a part of the curriculum for the teaching of the Basic Law in order to prevent the rise of the independence mindset on campuses and among schoolchildren.

But Hong Kong is not China. We should allow the free flow of information so that the next generation will be able to think for themselves what is good or bad about their city, and will have the ability and the courage to voice out their views and beliefs.

In the age of the internet, this game of brainwashing and counter-brainwashing has no place in Hong Kong. 

Our young people are smart enough to think for themselves, to make their own judgments and not to blindly accept everything the authorities try to tell them.

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EJ Insight writer

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