Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has vowed to pay close attention to independence advocates in the city and will counter it with strict law enforcement, as well as stepping up national education to nurture a sense of “I am Chinese” identity among youth from as early as kindergarten.
The incoming leader of Hong Kong, who has maintained that calls for separating Hong Kong from China have no mainstream support, told Chinese state media that she would still take separatist ideology seriously.
“I believe the absolute majority of Hongkongers have never felt that Hong Kong independence is a viable option,” she told the official Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television.
“In future, the [local] government will ... strictly enforce the law against any acts for Hong Kong independence that breach local laws.”
To achieve this, she has proposed instilling the idea of “I am Chinese” in children from kindergarten onwards, and making Chinese history a compulsory subject in junior secondary-school level.
Speaking to Young Post today, Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said Lam has only stated how much she loved the country before assuming office on July 1.
“It’s a move to declare her position only – she didn’t reveal how she plans to achieve this. The junior secondary-school curriculum includes elements of moral, civic and national education, but according to the latest survey from the University of Hong Kong public opinion programme (POP), more young people identified as ‘Hongkongers’ instead of ‘Chinese’,” said Chung. “They appear to have a negative view of Beijing’s influence on Hong Kong policies and education.”
The POP in June showed only 3.1 per cent of interviewees, aged between 18 and 29, identified as “Chinese”, the lowest percentage since the survey started in July 1997. Some 65 per cent called themselves “Hongkongers”.
“It won’t be easy adding this kind of national education into lessons when many young people feel antipathy towards the mainland, and would describe it as ‘political brainwashing’,” Chung said. “Maybe the government should note how the US and Britain teach their own national education – with the space and freedom for students to discuss any subject freely. The most important thing is for their voices to be heard.”
Ip Kin-yuen, a lawmaker for the education sector, said existing Education Bureau guidelines already suggest kindergartens introduce the concept of being Chinese to students, but he questioned Lam’s emphasis on it.
“Her stress on the need for reinforcement leaves people wondering whether there’s something more. Will children be taught to glorify the regime, for example?” Ip asked.
Ip also said national education should be used to enlighten students, not to impose national glorification and sense of identity.