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
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
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

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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Hong Kong Economic Journal
A14 | 時事評論 |




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。


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!












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Hong Kong Economic Journal
A14 | 時事評論 | 時事評論 | By 何漢權 |

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。



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。


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」!


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%!




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。



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。