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Hong Kong’s new rules have created confusion in the classroom. Some parents are pulling their children out


“I want him to grow up in an environment with enough freedom to do what he wants to do and not be restricted by some invisible threat,” mentioned Sarah, who requested CNN use a pseudonym for worry of being focused by authorities.

In June, Beijing imposed a nationwide safety legislation on Hong Kong that bans secession, subversion, terrorist actions and collusion with overseas powers. The legislation was handed to quell the pro-democracy motion that destabilized the monetary hub final 12 months, however its attain went far past policing protests to criminalizing sure conversations, political positions, publications and even social media posts.

In Hong Kong’s lecture rooms, it’s now unclear what can legally be taught or mentioned.

The Education Bureau has ordered colleges to take away books and instructing supplies that would violate the legislation. Administrators can name the police if somebody insults the Chinese anthem, which have to be performed in colleges on sure holidays. In September, a pupil who displayed a photograph with the slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now” throughout class was suspended for per week.

Sarah’s transfer is not only for her son: she is a instructor in Hong Kong. The English Schools Foundation, a world training group, launched new pointers in September for lecturers, seen by CNN, which concluded that the classroom “is not a safe space” for dialogue or debate.

It suggested lecturers to “always be aware of how what you are teaching could be interpreted/misinterpreted by others.” The former Chief Executive of Hong Kong has even posted on his Facebook web page private particulars of lecturers charged over skilled misconduct throughout the protest final 12 months.

In Hong Kong, Sarah owns an condominium and a automobile — each uncommon privileges in a metropolis the place shopping for a house is pricey and taking public transport is the norm. But she’s ready to offer all of it up for an unsure life away from household and mates.

“We will do any kind of job. Be a cleaner, do the dishes, be a cashier,” she mentioned. “Because it’s the value we place on the freedom that’s more important than the materialistic life we have.”

CNN spoke to a number of mother and father who mentioned they have been additionally getting ready to maneuver overseas for his or her kids’s training, and lecturers at some colleges have reported the next than regular drop-out rate this year. One mom, who has two kids in native major colleges, mentioned her household will transfer to the UK earlier than the tip of the 12 months. Like Sarah, she is not positive what her job prospects can be in a rustic that is struggling to deal with a speedy rise in coronavirus instances.

“We are sacrificing a lot to move. It will be expensive,” she mentioned. “We want our children to study in a country that offers more freedom.”

“Illegal ideas”

Last month, Hong Kong authorities took away a teacher’s registration for life for allegedly “spreading the idea of Hong Kong independence” in school.

Authorities didn’t give particulars concerning the classroom dialogue, however native media reported that the instructor confirmed college students a TV documentary, that includes pro-independence determine Andy Chan. They have been then requested to reply questions from a worksheet about freedom of speech and proposals for Hong Kong independence. In response to the incident, Chief Executive Carrie Lam mentioned “illegal ideas” and “pro-independence” ideas can not exist in colleges.

Beijing has lengthy blamed the Hong Kong training system for radicalizing its college students. In explicit, pro-Beijing lawmakers condemn Liberal Studies — a required highschool civics course that was launched in 2009 to strengthen important pondering and information of up to date points. It covers topics together with fashionable China, political participation and Hong Kong identification. Pro-Beijing voices have criticized the course supplies for being biased and inspiring college students to hitch anti-government protests. Publishers of textbooks for the course have rewritten components of it, eradicating criticism of the Chinese authorities and the time period “separation of powers.”
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip says the adjustments to training will train college students a extra balanced historical past of China, fairly than stifle dialog.

“The basic purpose is to bring up our children to at least have proper respect for our country,” Ip mentioned. “I have received complaints about teachers using the classroom as a vehicle of the political beliefs, even stirring up hatred of police, of the Chinese government, of the people of China, portraying them as dirty, backward, repressive.”

Education authorities obtained 247 misconduct complaints about lecturers who allegedly “disseminated hate remarks” and “advocated violence on social media,” from final June to this August. Earlier this month, the Hong Kong training minister mentioned his division had investigated several teachers and college students for allegedly bullying the kids of cops, who have been on the frontlines of final 12 months’s protests. According to local media reports, a secondary college instructor’s contract was terminated as a result of she allowed college students to carry out pro-democracy anthem “Glory to Hong Kong.” According to Ip, the tune “amounts to sowing the seeds of Hong Kong independence in young minds.”
This summer season, town’s Education Bureau issued new guidelines, requiring Hong Kong colleges to play the Chinese anthem throughout necessary holidays, and to report back to the police those that insult the tune. Ip says “many countries” train their children to memorize the structure and sing the nationwide anthem. “I think there is no basic difference,” she added.
Joshua Wong  speaks to tens of thousands protesters outside government headquarters in Hong Kong, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012.
For years, Beijing has tried to impose patriotic training in Hong Kong. Joshua Wong, a distinguished Hong Kong activist and former chief of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, created a pupil activist group referred to as Scholarism when he was in highschool. In 2012, he rallied 120,000 people to occupy the Hong Kong authorities’s headquarters to protest a Beijing-backed plan to introduce patriotic, pro-Communist national and moral education lessons within the metropolis’s public colleges. Protesters argued the adjustments amounted to brainwashing, and their actions pressured town’s beleaguered leaders to withdraw the proposed curriculum.

That was the final time the scholars of Hong Kong gained towards Beijing.

Since 2012, one among Beijing’s major goals has been to create a era of patriotic and dependable Hong Kong youth, in keeping with Lester Shum, onetime deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and now an elected lawmaker. He mentioned the present adjustments might create a brand new era who can be “totally brainwashed, not knowing about the wrongdoings from the authorities.”

But Shum says it is unclear how profitable these goals can be, since college students can nonetheless entry free data from the web and the press.

Next era

Rowena He, an affiliate professor on the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has witnessed a lot of these adjustments to an training system play out earlier than. In the spring of 1989, thousands and thousands took to the streets in Beijing and different cities throughout China to demand political reforms. The nationwide motion ended on June 4, when the People’s Liberation Army opened fireplace by itself folks Beijing’s metropolis heart. After that, the Communist Party launched a patriotic training marketing campaign to instil nationwide delight and alter younger folks’s attitudes in direction of Western powers.

Today, few younger folks inside mainland China know concerning the Tiananmen bloodbath, or pro-democracy protests, as a result of the occasion is censored from the Chinese web and books, and isn’t taught in colleges. Many of those that know concerning the incident consider within the official model that the crackdown was mandatory for China’s stability and rise.

But in Hong Kong it should take far longer to “brainwash the younger generation,” He mentioned. “Hong Kong has a strong civil society,” she defined.

He is the creator of “Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China.” For years, she taught seminars on the motion in American universities earlier than shifting to Hong Kong final 12 months. She was wanting ahead to attending the June 4 commemoration for the primary time in Hong Kong, the one place on Chinese soil the place an annual vigil is held. But authorities banned the occasion in June for the primary time in 30 years, citing coronavirus considerations. Many worry it should by no means happen once more. A smaller crowd of individuals nonetheless gathered in Victoria Park this 12 months, resulting in the arrest of dozens of democracy activists who have been accused of knowingly participating in an “unauthorized assembly.”

Students at the patriotic Heung To Middle School in Hong Kong watch as Cheung Kit-yuk, center, and Chiu Pak-min, far left,  raise the Chinese national flag to the sounds of the national anthem during a ceremony in the school grounds, Friday, April 2, 2004.

He nonetheless teaches her college students concerning the Tiananmen bloodbath and historic episodes deemed taboo by the Communist Party, however fears of repercussions have adopted her all through her profession. In July, the University of Hong Kong fired Benny Tai, a distinguished legislation professor and pro-democracy activist, who mentioned tutorial workers within the metropolis “are no longer free to make controversial statements.” Local media have reported situations of professors with pro-democracy views whose contracts have been denied.

“We never know what the red line is, that’s the root of censorship and self-censorship,” Rowena He mentioned.

On June 4 this 12 months, He took her college students to a duplicate of the “Goddess of Democracy” standing on the coronary heart of the Chinese University campus. The authentic Goddess of Democracy was a 10-meter tall statue unexpectedly made by college students in 1989 that was destroyed by the Chinese navy in Tiananmen Square. The determine is now a global symbol of defiance.
Protesters sit next to a Goddess of Democracy statue at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in Hong Kong on November 12, 2019.

“Those in power can easily manipulate history and erase memory,” He mentioned. “I try my best to speak out the truth — that’s the resistance.”

Some of Rowena’s college students plan to depart Hong Kong after commencement. One of them, Tyler, who requested to make use of a pseudonym to keep away from repercussions, mentioned he’ll transfer to the UK to pursue graduate research in Chinese historical past, due to the “censorship problems” in Hong Kong. “The narrative in Hong Kong and China is quite controlled,” he mentioned.

Tyler took half in pupil demonstrations on the Chinese University of Hong Kong final 12 months, which turned the middle of violent clashes between police and protesters. Students set up barricades towards police who fired tear gasoline. Protesters have been arrested in giant numbers.

“Under the security law, many of us are afraid of being spied on by police,” Tyler mentioned. “So now we are quite worried, but I still saw a lot of students who are willing to sacrifice themselves.”

Some college students are decided to remain in Hong Kong. One of Tyler’s classmates plans to turn out to be a major college instructor, so she will be able to maintain alive the reminiscence of necessary occasions, such because the 1989 crackdown.

“We need someone to continue to teach the next generation and continue to tell them what is right and wrong, so not just let them to be brainwashed by the government,” mentioned the scholar, who did not need to be named for worry of being focused by authorities.

But Sarah, the instructor who’s shifting her household to the UK, doesn’t need to wait to see what occurs to the following era. Her largest worry is not what’s occurring in Hong Kong presently, however what might occur in a long time to come back.

By leaving Hong Kong now, she’s hoping her son will not should face a tough choice sooner or later about whether or not to desert the one metropolis he is aware of.

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