On July 10 a senior Chinese official argued that Hong Kong’s education system should not cultivate people who have “a Chinese face, but not a Chinese heart.”

The remarks were made at the “Forum on Hong Kong’s Patriotic Education” (香港愛國主義教育高峰論壇) held on Saturday in the former British colony.

The event was organized by government agencies and pro-Beijing groups, including the Hong Kong government’s Education Department, the Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan Office of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the Chinese Communist Party-controlled Dagong-Wenwei media group. Over 200 people from the city’s education sector attended.

“Hong Kong’s education absolutely cannot cultivate people who have a Chinese face, but not a Chinese heart, who have no Chinese feelings and lack Chineseness,” said Tan Tieniu (譚鐵牛), deputy director of the Central People’s Government Liaison Office in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong must “work with a sense of common purpose to promote patriotic education” and must “boldly and self-confidently make patriotism a common aspiration of Hong Kong society,” he added.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam remarked that “fostering patriotic feelings among the youth is the common responsibility of the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, of parents, society, and people from all walks of life.”

“Everyone must work together to boldly and self-confidently promote patriotic education and the spirit of patriotism in Hong Kong so as to rectify the value system of young people” (糾正青少年的價值觀), she said.

In the People’s Republic of China, “patriotism” as defined by the authorities is inseparable from the notion of loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

In 2012, thousands of Hong Kong people took to the streets in protests against the proposed introduction of a “Moral and National Education” school curriculum. “We don’t want the next generation of Hong Kong people to be brainwashed,” said then-15-year-old activist Joshua Wong.

An estimated 120,000 people took part in protests around the seat of the government on September 7, 2012. Among the participants were pro-democracy activist and politician Martin Lee, and the founder of Apple Daily news outlet Jimmy Lai.

The Hong Kong government eventually relented and shelved the plan.

After the Chinese Communist Party-controlled rubber-stamp legislature in Beijing introduced the National Security Law in June 2020, Hong Kong people can no longer freely protest or elect their representatives in the legislature.

Joshua Wong, Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai are all in jail on National Security Law charges. Apple Daily was forced to shut down.

Read also: Hong Kong identity and Chinese nationalism – A clash of civilizations

The Rise and Decline of Hong Kong – From the British Colonial Era to the Chinese Communist Takeover

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