By Francis Wong, Ecumenical News International
Some 90,000 people took to the streets on 29 July in Hong Kong to urge the government to withdraw a new education curriculum said to be biased in favor of China's Communist party. About 150 Christian schools said they would refuse to use the course in the new school year.
Many demonstrators marched with their children for three to four hours in very hot weather carrying banners and wearing badges that read "no brainwashing."
An adjunct professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Willy Wo-Lap Lam, said the textbooks to be used in the course present "very crude patriotic, nationalistic propaganda," according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The movement against the national education courses reflects distrust of the city's new, pro-Beijing chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, he told the newspaper.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, retired bishop of Hong Kong, told media 28 July that the government should withdraw the plan.
The diocesan Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, the Hong Kong Christian Institute, and a dozen civil groups organized the demonstration. Zen said that Nazi Germany and the Chinese Communists who initiated the Cultural Revolution had also launched a biased national education curriculum.
The introduction of national education in primary schools has drawn controversy in the former British colony, which was handed over to China in 1997, with many people fearing a political agenda under Communist-ruled China.
A government-subsidized national teaching manual praises the one-party political system in China as proactive and "selfless," and criticizes the U.S. two-party system as bringing "serious partisan fights that make people suffer."
Meanwhile, local Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches, which manage one-third of the 500 primary schools, said they would not implement national education in the coming school year. No penalty has been announced for not running the course.