Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Does respect for China’s national anthem have to be mandated by law in Hong Kong?

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-09-04
Cliff Buddle says criminalising derogatory treatment of the national anthem, while intended to protect it, would nevertheless curb freedom of expression. Worse, the proposal comes at a sensitive time in Beijing-Hong Kong relations

When the Sex Pistols released their punk version of Britain’s national anthem in 1977, the country’s establishment reacted with horror and outrage.

The BBC banned the song from the airwaves, some stores refused to sell the single, and the band came under fire from the media and the public. There were even scuffles and arrests during a provocative publicity stunt when the song was played on a boat on the River Thames.

Forty years on, the punk anthem might strike a chord with Hong Kong’s disaffected youth, with its uncompromising anti-establishment message and refrain of “no future for you … no future for me”.

But any attempt to subject China’s national anthem, March of the Volunteers, to similar treatment could, in future, land those responsible in jail. A law on China’s national anthem was passed by China’s top legislature on Friday. It is a national law, which means it does not automatically apply to Hong Kong. But the intention is to bring it into force in the city by following procedures set out in Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, the Basic Law.

Zhang Haiyang, deputy head of the NPC law committee, said the legislation is necessary to foster socialist core values and to promote the patriotism-centred spirit of the nation.

The law bans malicious altering of the lyrics in a derogatory manner in public.

Latter-day Sex Pistols beware!

It also limits the occasions when the national anthem may be played. Using it in advertisements, as background music in public places, or at funerals, is not allowed. The law requires everyone to respect the national anthem. When it is played, those present are to stand in a respectful manner. A breach of the law can result in 15 days police detention. Violations can also be dealt with under other laws.

National anthems, as a reflection of a country’s identity, history and culture, are entitled to respect. It is not surprising this one is being applied to Hong Kong given that, as part of China, it is the city’s national anthem, too.

However, a law which makes disrespecting the national anthem a crime will curb free expression. Concerns have already been expressed about the impact it will have. And it comes at a time of heightened sensitivity about moves by Beijing to use the law to further its objectives in Hong Kong.

The city’s leader ,Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, has said the law will be applied through local legislation. That is necessary, because some parts of it simply will not work under the city’s separate legal system. There is no detention without trial in Hong Kong. The draft law’s requirements for the media to promote the national anthem and for it to be included in school music curriculums would appear to conflict with provisions of the Basic Law protecting press freedom and preserving the city’s autonomy over education.

It is very important that the law is clear and precise so that everyone understands what constitutes an offence. If it is too broad, the courts are likely to view it as an unlawful restriction on the freedom of expression and strike it out.

Pro-establishment lawmakers have suggested that booing the national anthem at a football match will breach the law. Whether or not that is the case will need to be made clear.

Hong Kong fans started booing the national anthem at football matches in 2014, following the Occupy pro-democracy protests that year. It is difficult to see how a law against this would be enforced. What are the police to do? Arrest the crowd at Mong Kok Stadium? Do we really want to impose criminal sanctions on young people holding up a sign saying “boo” when the national anthem is played? What if someone fails to stand up or forgets the words? Is that also a matter for the police?

Whatever form the law passed by the Legislative Council takes, it is likely to be breached. This will mean another controversial court case in which the constitutionality of the law is tested. That is what happened in 1999 after a national law criminalising desecration of China’s flag was applied to Hong Kong. The Court of Final Appeal upheld the flag law, which carries a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment. But its judgment was criticised because the majority of the judges relied on the vague legal concept “ordre public”, which was seen as a weak basis for justifying a restriction on human rights.

The March of the Volunteers has a colourful history. Written in the 1930s, it became a rallying cry for the people of China during the war with Japan. It was later adopted as the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China, although the lyrics were at one point changed to incorporate references to Mao Zedong. The original words were restored in 1982.

Student protesters sang the anthem in Tiananmen Square in 1989 before the crackdown.

Laws protecting national anthems exist elsewhere in the world and are occasionally a source of controversy. India’s Supreme Court ruled last year [9] that people should stand up in respect for the country’s national anthem when it is played in cinemas and there have been cases of people being arrested for failing to do so.

In Japan, teachers have been disciplined for refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem at schools, because they associated the song with country’s military past.

In the US, the law encourages people to respect the national anthem but there are no criminal penalties for failing to do so.

Times have changed in Britain in the 40 years since the release of the Sex Pistols single. A Conservative Member of Parliament recently called for the national anthem to be played by the BBC at the end of its day’s television programming, as happened until 1997. BBC’s Newsnight programme responded by saying it was happy to oblige – it played the Sex Pistols version.

It is natural for governments to expect their country’s national anthem to be respected. But the addition of another law which criminalises a form of expression is not what Hong Kong needs at this politically sensitive time. To borrow from the Sex Pistols song, it’s a “potential H-bomb”.

Cliff Buddle is the Post’s editor of special projects

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Education deputy Christine Choi has survived the ‘red scare’ – but what about bias-ridden Hong Kong?

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-08-07
Alice Wu says those who conjured up a ‘leftist’ spectre in a bid to block the veteran educator from government, despite the positives she may bring to policymaking, offer a lesson on how prejudice can cloud reason

It may be a time-tested political strategy in Hong Kong: when desperate, use the political “nuclear” option – red scare – to exploit the anti-Beijing sentiment or the “fear Beijing” factor.

That’s what was deployed in a bid to derail Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s plan to add Dr Christine Choi Yuk-lin to her team as undersecretary for education. And it was a textbook campaign – built on the tenor of spreading fear, executed by blatant character assassination.

Never mind that Choi is a 20-plus-year veteran in education. Never mind that she once worked at the Education Bureau. Never mind that she has been a teacher for a decade as well as a principal. Never mind her professional credentials, schooling and training.

Mind, though, that she is (now “was”) a principal of Fukien Secondary School in Siu Sai Wan, and vice-president of the “pro-Beijing” Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers.

However, it is clear the opposition isn’t really personal, although the attacks are. Choi’s “crime” is that of association. Her “sin” is of belonging to a teachers’ group other than the Professional Teachers’ Union, and the “leftist” school she led. It is almost too bad that Choi is only 50 years old, since she cannot be “incriminated” for the 1967 riots as well.

Most striking is how her critics have abandoned attempts to simply make innuendos when it comes to the political persecution. It has become so McCarthy-esque that I have been left wondering whether there is a blacklist somewhere.

What is truly extraordinary, perhaps, is Lam sticking to her decision to appoint Choi, and Choi’s acceptance of the appointment. Perhaps reason does rule in this administration: having a veteran educator with years of experience would be an asset for the government.

Choi would be an asset to educators simply for the fact that she knows how much pressure teachers and schools are under, and she has spoken out and written about the topic. She has been a critic of education reform policies and education chiefs.

Choi would also bring an important element into the policymaking process for education: consideration for impact on stakeholders – the teachers who will have to carry the burden of government education policies.

Is requesting those who exploit red fears to critically inspect their own biases too much to ask?

In fact, it is a question we must treat seriously: are some people so indoctrinated with bias that self-introspection fails? Are some so prejudiced with delusions of superiority that, in their world, there are only standard answers, views, and opinions?

And, if so, how are these adults indoctrinating our children? Are they passing on to our students a crippling world view, where prejudgments are justified, and individuals are judged based on their association?

That seems to conflict with the ideals of education. Education shouldn’t lead to bias, prejudice and discrimination; ignorance does that. Narrow-mindedness goes against opening our minds and changing lives.

Discrimination isn’t limited to race, creed and gender. Our young children are prejudged, by their preschool access to playgroups and instruction in the fine arts; basically, by their parents’ resourcefulness.

Ethnic minority students do not stand a chance in our education system. The fact that policies at some schools were called out by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as “de facto discrimination” in 2013 shows this isn’t just a special-needs education issue.

For those lamenting the lack of critical thinking skills among our students, it is hard to feign ignorance as to where that comes from.

The reaction to Choi’s appointment should actually be studied and used as material in exploring how pervasive prejudice is in our community. It shapes a society that tolerates intolerance and is undeserving of the title “Asia’s world city”.

Educating ourselves on how politicians exploit our unquestioned biases and perceptions fuelled by fear would far better prepare us to fight whatever “brainwashing” pre-crime Choi has been accused of.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA


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Blame Hong Kong’s failed education reform for independence activism in schools

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2016-09-06

Philip Yeung

Philip Yeung believes our young agitators would not have got so far if they had been properly taught modern Chinese history

This school term, teachers have been handed a radioactive subject: talk of independence. Caught in a double bind, they are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. The choice is between being accused of condoning illegal behaviour or being condemned for suppressing freedom of speech.

I could have said “I told you so” when “independence” talk reared its ugly head. The seed was planted by the Education Bureau when it marginalised the teaching of history, and replaced it with the ill-conceived liberal studies, now mandatory. This, without doubt, is its single most politically disastrous crackpot reform idea.

For all the hype about the new subject, there has not been an iota of good that has come out of its introduction. In supposedly training students to think critically, we have let loose a monster that is now out of control, with students questioning everything without sufficient knowledge or context.

In 2010, some 32 per cent of students signed up for history under the old Certificate of Education exams. Five years later, the number had plummeted to about 10 per cent of all enrolled students under the new Diploma of Secondary Education system. It is a safe bet that the students agitating for independence are among those who have deserted history.

How can you intelligently discuss Hong Kong’s independence from China without knowledge of its past? How many of the independence-spouting activists know about the opium wars, the Nanking massacre, China’s world-changing open-door policy or its shattering Cultural Revolution? If they did, their jaws would have dropped at how far China has come.

Inexplicably, education policymakers also fooled around with forcing national education on the students, only to beat a retreat when it was massively rejected as “brainwashing”. This set a bad precedent, whetting student appetite for more confrontations with the government. How, then, do we crack this nut? First, make history a compulsory subject. Second, before history returns to its rightful place, if students wish to discuss independence, they should do so only on one condition: that they first demonstrate a knowledge of modern Chinese history. Third, history teaching must be revitalised. The subject has often reduced to the superficial remembering of dates or names. Teachers need to relearn the art of teaching this subject.

This is crunch time. Will our officials have the courage to correct their blunder? By keeping our students historically illiterate, they are sowing the seeds of chaos.

Philip Yeung is a former speech-writer to the president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.


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一意孤行一敗塗地

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A14 | 時事評論 |
何漢權
2013-07-13

近幾年,身邊好友的子女,不少對本港學校教育的體制、考評、資源投放等措施,口裏念着不滿,進一步是雙腳就踏出港門,到英美加紐澳求學去也。求學的年齡有日趨下降的趨勢,相信這是普遍的趨勢,而筆者行內的相熟老師,意興闌珊,提早退休的朋友,所在多有,寧願「餓壞」一點,總比「谷壞」好得多;也相信,此一提早退休、浪費教學人才的現象,未曾休止,究竟這是言過其實,抑或已是鐵打的現象?

特區政府雖則處於弱勢捱打,但對部分衙門的決策及執行的大、小官員,卻弔詭地依然是信心滿滿,學生們選擇用腳投票,少小離家、要到外地憂心學習,自懸高峰的官員,必會解說成這是人才外流,過去現在都如是,有出有入,自然不過;至於教師們提早離休,官員們的感知,彷彿更是高興,這不是能者上、庸者下很有力的見證?

教改初見成效!實情如何,究竟是設計周詳的政策空降成地?抑或是一意孤行的長官意志落實,使得師生的教與學都陷絕地?歷史驗證、自有公論。

教育現場可點算的案例可多。硬推國民教育科,錯在多一個「科」字,滿盤皆落索,毫釐差,謬千里,洗腦風潮是愈吹愈大,媒體、學生及家長們都起哄,結果是「國民教育科」五隻字不能再登大堂,漣漪效應,正正經經的「國民教育」也被加上原則,演變下去, 「愛國愛民」的善良價值也不敢提出。

國民教育節節敗退

看來,有朝一日,香港特區終會有禁忌詞的出現, 「國民教育科」當是死罪, 「國民教育」、「愛國愛民」也不是好東西,也不配有容身之所,再發展下去,說要顧己及人的「愛」字,也只能配做私家貨,不能曝光,免得被集體主義所操控了!如斯境況的不堪,誰之過?當日教育局炮製的五隻大字「國民教育科」的推動文件,諮詢了誰,而民間是否沒有勸退之聲?

事實上,連筆者在內,確實有公開的影音文字,清清楚楚說出「國民教育」四字可以, 「國民教育科」就千萬不要,愛國是不應不能用紙筆墨硯,要寫出來並公開接受考核的!但教育局卻一意孤行,堅決在立法會闖關,最終竟在立法會的闖關,給學生及家長們狠狠摔個大跤,五體朝天,慘敗收場,後遺症不少!

稍具國民教育的行內智商情商知識都明白,實實在在的國民教育的推動,本源於國史教育(香港向稱中史教育),中學的載體是獨立的、連貫的中史,初中階段最是基礎,輕慢不得。十年多之前,課程改革搞科際整合,以八個大大的學習領域橫掃全場,各「閒科」幾無一幸免。

中史科對政策的制訂者來說,卻是睡覺的一科,當然有被修理的必要;同樣,具教學前線經驗,並有尊重各科發展的同工都知悉,學生上課睡覺與否,關鍵不在科,成敗在於該科教師的教學是否認真、是否吸引,各科機會都平等。

但其時的教育局及課程發展處的執行者,依然是一意孤行,不理會民間的教學專業意見,對中史學界反對把中史科切割的聲音置之不理!當然,筆者當年在《信報》欄內提出第九個學習領域,此即國史及國民教育領域,如此「大想頭」。教育局有權有勢的高層決策者,豈有動容納聽之理!

十年已過,國民教育已是節節敗退,家國呈信任危機;另一邊廂,國民教育的載體中史科,初中的獨立必修科地位失落,高中的課程又是搞得繁多雜亂,師生教與學是超負荷,人盡皆知,頭重腳輕,惡果積累,致使修讀人數屢創新低,如今只剩下七千多而已!此一頹唐衰敗之象,已是全城關注,不同政治立場的影視及文字媒體、不同的黨派議員乃至關心國民及國史教育的社會各界,都十分清晰地公開表達相同的看法,這就是「淡化中史助長去中國化,教育局應亡羊補牢」(《明報》2013年6月10日社評)。

自圓其說勇氣可嘉

面對眾聲,教育局竟然繼續不動如山,再來一意孤行,又加點語言偽術,在報章上公開的「政策正面睇」欄目,發表〈對中史回歸前後的地位和學習〉一文,以正視聽,先說是「近日」有部分人士倡議中史列為必修科(過去十年,已不斷有意見提出要中史獨立必修科,怎可以說成近日?);又說倡議獨立必修科的意見是壓抑其他學習模式的方案、是獨尊「王朝順序」(將獨立必修科的整全學習,名正言順、有系統的尊重中史學習的意見,硬扣帽子,說成打壓者、說成封建的「王朝順序」學習模式,如此拉一派打一派,恃勢也凌人,實在可惡)。

最後,更指出中史科考生選考人數屢創歷史新低,歸因為自然減選修科現象,更以排列為第八名選修位置之「高位」,聊以自慰(四個核心必修科後的選修排在第八,這與各個重要的選修科比較,中史科的位置已幾乎包尾,教育局還可自圓其說,勇氣可嘉!國民及國史教育今天何價?教育局心裏有數)。

如按教育局「政策正面睇」的健康文章所載,產出兩個總之。第一個總之:初中中史科被拆散、高中中史科課程深澀超負,並沒有問題。第二個總之:現今中史科的地位不是大大的壞,而是形勢大大的好!

不理會教學前線的專業意見、不尋求學界的共識,政策只懂一意孤行,終究是一敗塗地,與人無尤,中史科事件如是、教師語文基準、語文教學政策、校本評核……莫不如是?

教育評議會副主席

何漢權


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國脈如此虛弱,怎麼辦?

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A14 | 時事評論 | 時事評論 | By 何漢權 |
2013-06-15

周一看《明報》的社評,題為〈淡化中史助長去中國化教育局應亡羊補牢〉,說的是自2000 年課程改革,將初中階段中史科切割,致讓中史科的地位下降,另一方面卻炮製「國民教育科」,結果被質疑強推洗腦教育,最終是節節敗退。

其實,要認真推動國民教育,問題根源不在「國教科」,而是政府要迷途知返,重新正視「中史」復科的重要性,先由初中階段做起,一步一腳印,恢復中史獨立必修的地位。長遠而言,逐步在高中階段給予獨立必修位置。

這些年,類似《明報》的吶喊,各類媒體的揚聲器亦早已有之。

筆者早已參與其中,十年前,在《信報》本欄已說到老掉了牙。當課程發展處2000 年「大課改」,以化學的綜合方式將中史科目列入社會人文領域,連同其他七大領域,合稱八大學習領域的一刻,筆者已提出中史(國史)科不能如此被整,否則後果堪虞。

當下,筆者提出要設第九個學習領域,這就是國史及國民教育的學習領域,人微言輕,政府機器根本不用理會。

轉眼十年有多,結果怎樣?忍耐點,花些時間看數據,先看第一屆(2009-2010 年)新戰績如何?

2009-2010年(即第一年的中四級)共一萬二千八百七十六人選修;至2010-2011 年(即第二年的中五級)下降至一萬一千二百六十人選修;再至2011-2012 年又下降至八千五百一十人選修;計算之下,退修人數合共四千三百六十六人(佔中史考生人數為33.9%)。這是第一屆新高中文憑試的「戰績」!

中史閒科可修不修

低處未算低,第二屆新高文憑試的第二個三年, 「成績」更驕人,中四級第一年修讀人數是一萬一千八百一十二人;中五級第二年下滑至九千三百二十九人;至中六級,即剛過去的新高中文憑試踏入考場作戰的,只剩下七千四百三十七人;再計算之下,退修人數佔全體原報讀中史科人數高達37%!

果真是買少見少,即是說,現今應考新高文憑試的七萬多個考生中,只有七千多人選修中史科,即約十分一能夠讀中史科。

十個一皮,孰令至此?紅燈早已亮起,教育局沒有理由看不到火辣辣的顏色。過去一個多月,筆者先後接受三家電視台、三家廣播電台邀約,談的都是中史科退修大潮,學界應怎麼辦,教育局應如何負上責任?

任何國家體制的城市,稍具文明、全民教育稍為先進的,自當重視本國的歷史的教育,特別在中學階段,學童認識本國歷史的源流與發展是應有的權利,是每一政府都會看重,十分珍惜,亦會具備高度的敏感,唯恐不及。

由身份認同到家國認同,每一國家之民,當問及其民族情感何來,自會回應——從認識自己國家的歷史與文化而來!美、英、日、韓以及歐洲各國,政制或有不同,但答案都會相同,國史不能廢, 「亡人之國,先亡其史」!

前段所說,一國兩制下的香港,2000 年的課改,竟能將英殖年代的不能變為可能,容許中史科在各學校放任自流,可以化身元素融入其他學科裏自由發展,名不正言不順,日久無情,中史科在不少學校的師生心目中,早已變成閒科中的閒科;初中階段,師生亦早已無心戀戰。

另一方面,在新高中文憑試的考評設計中,卻是如斯大手筆、大氣魄,既有專修的通史部分,又有要選修的專題內容,論文也要寫作,跨朝代的政治與文化的比較少不了,當然也要蘊含科科有份的、連續三年的校本持續評核,但配合教學的人手、資源以及時間的短缺與不濟,結果是以「繁、多、雜、亂」終場,師生應付超負荷的狀況下,學生能退修的就會退修!

民族自強讀史做起

筆者始終認為,國民教育的根本源於國史教育!今天, 「香港地」仍然是國際公認的學術自由與言論自由之地,相對於內地乃至台灣,我們不須背負政黨包袱,我們更能夠無拘無束地研習自己國家的歷史,能建構「香港模式」的國史(中史)學科;長遠而言,對國家的未來發展,特別是要求真求實、人文精神的提倡,自會產生深遠的意義。

在這裏,筆者不嫌鄙陋,再提出國史教育(中史)科的一些重要看法。此即:一、印證民族及國家發展,當中盛載是非黑白,人情道理的一門具理性邏輯,以及引發情感的學問;

二、國史科能滲出民族的博大與融合,讓國民持守溫情與敬意;

三、是貴古重今,邁向高度文明與文化的認真學習,對整體國民質素的提升,起着關鍵的作用。更重要的是,這是一門沒有避諱議題、不黨、不私、不盲的寶貴學問的探索,是民族發展的靈魂與動力,是國脈之寄!

終究是一國兩制的香港,國史(中史)科退修潮是低處未算低,國脈如此虛弱,怎麼辦?看來,先恢復初中階段中史科獨立必修地位,繼而優化新高中文憑試的考評內容。

長遠而言,讓中史科在高中階段能有必修的位置,國脈方可暢通!

教育評議會副主席

何漢權