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Hong Kong government out of touch with the people

The Hong Kong government backed down on a long-standing plan to activate the “moral education” part of the curriculum for K-12 students on Saturday. This policy deferral came about just a week before two elementary schools were scheduled to initiate the program, and after weeks of protests drawing tens of thousands onto the streets of the city.

This controversy is a complicated riddle. But the basic idea to take away is that the government of Hong Kong made huge errors in judgment by failing to communicate adequately with the people.

The concession came as only a partial victory for the pro-democracy, anti-Beijing camp for it only promised relegation of decisions on whether to implement the program to individual schools and not a direct cancellation. Leading protesters had already refused to accept the government's terms and demand outright cancellation.

Termed “Moral, Civic and National Education,” the Hong Kong government's plan focuses on a multilayered ideal of personality nurturance, with development being demarcated broadly from the Confucian ideal of five areas ranging from the “personal,””familial,” “social,” “national” and ultimately toward the “global.”

Some forms of civic education are indeed popular in the world. In the wake of the global economic crisis that some argued was partly caused by the moral deficiency of Wall Street business leaders, there are calls in Western countries for the renewed emphasis on moral and civic education.

The problem for the Hong Kong government, however, is in the “national” aspect of its program, which detractors view as a thinly veiled communist propaganda maneuver to inculcate pro-Beijing ideas within the minds of the city's students from age 6 and up. Comments by some Hong Kong government and education officials that sensitive topics (such as the 1989 Tiananmen Crackdown) should be excluded in the curriculum certainly did not help relieve the protesters' concerns.

1 Comment
September 12, 2012    chenjohn2@
Of course, the whole thing was a crass effort by civil servants to please Beijing. But the big demo is more than identity or brainwashing. HK students were largely apathetic towards political issues. The outburst must have been provoked by other issues as well, the frictions arising from hordes of Mainland tourists crowding Hong Kong streets, the stream of pregnant women fighting with locals over precious maternity beds, the speculators pushing up property prices ever higher out of reach of locals, the increasing number of Mainland students given scholarships and places in HK's prestigious universities, and the occasional crude jingoistic clashes in publications and buses/trains. It is a mirror: HK today is Taiwan's tomorrow and Singapore is already facing tomorrow.
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