19 October 2019
Chen Baosheng (inset), China's education minister, insists that Hong Kong promote national education in schools to help foster a sense of Chinese identity among the youth. Photo: Reuters
Chen Baosheng (inset), China's education minister, insists that Hong Kong promote national education in schools to help foster a sense of Chinese identity among the youth. Photo: Reuters

HK govt has a duty on national education: China minister

China’s education minister called on the Hong Kong government to focus on national education for school students, saying the initiative will help the youth develop the right sense of personal identity.

In an interview with RTHK, Chen Baosheng suggested that shortcomings in education are to blame for the emergence of pro-independence forces in Hong Kong.

Patriotic education will promote Chinese identity among young people, Chen said, adding that it is the Hong Kong government’s duty to take steps in this regard. 

“There is no country and no government in the world that does not implement national education. It is closely related to the public’s self-identity, national viewpoint, and values,” Chen said, vowing that Beijing will offer Hong Kong any help it wants in relation to the issue.

Speaking to RTHK in Beijing on Monday on the sidelines of the Communist Party’s 19th Congress, Chen warned that independence won’t be good for Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability, and pointed out that such activities go against the Basic Law — Hong Kong’s constitution – and the “One country, Two systems” principle.

Asked if he feels Hong Kong has not been doing enough to promote national education since the handover in 1997, Chen did not give a straight answer but said that Hongkongers know it better than anyone else, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Citing the words of Hong Kong’s Education Secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, who had once said that promoting national education is something that the government must do sooner or later, Chen agreed that implementation strategy would be left for the Hong Kong government itself to decide.

However, the minister said the curriculum should cover China’s entire history, ranging from the nation’s 5,000-year-old civilization to the story of how the People’s Republic was established in 1949, so as to make young Hongkongers recognize their identity of being a Chinese and feel proud.

As to the criticism that national education is tantamount to a form of brainwashing, Chen dismissed it, saying such worry makes no sense as the curriculum will only teach the Basic Law, the “One country, Two systems” principle, China’s development and its history, and recognition of national identity.

In other comments, he said teachers have a vital role in national education, stressing that they must love and recognize the country before they pass on the values to the students.

In response to Chen’s remarks, Hong Kong lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education sector, said it is improper for the mainland minister to give opinions with directions on Hong Kong’s education sector.

Article 136 of the Basic law stipulates that the Hong Kong government formulates policies on the development and improvement of education on its own, Ip pointed out, urging Beijing officials to be discreet when making comments.

Criticizing Beijing officials for telling Hong Kong what to do, Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said she is worried Chen’s remarks may put Yeung as well as teachers and schools in Hong Kong under pressure.

Patriotic education that only praises the virtues of a nation while concealing the faults does not help, Chan said.

A spokesperson for the Education Bureau, meanwhile, said national education is an ongoing subject in schools and that teachers are free to choose their own forms of teaching according to students’ interests and needs.

The government will continue to set its policies on education development in accordance with the Basic Law, the spokesperson said.

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