Children as young as six will be taught about colluding with foreign forces and subversion under controversial new guidelines for schools in Hong Kong.
They are being introduced via a security law imposed on Hong Kong by China in June last year, in response to the months-long, violent anti-government and anti-Beijing protests that erupted in 2019.
Guidelines issued to teachers on Thursday by the education bureau state a respect for China and an awareness of national security must be taught to children in the classroom.
An educational cartoon released by the government in support of the policy shows an owl wearing glasses and a graduation hat explaining Hong Kong’s institutional architecture and its duties to the central government in Beijing.
Under the law, primary school children will learn how to sing and respect China’s national anthem, and gain an understanding of the four main offences in the new security law, including terrorism and secessionism.
Secondary school pupils will learn what constitutes such offences, which can carry sentences of up to life in prison.
Schools are encouraged to “organise various game activities, such as puppet theatre, board games… to establish a good atmosphere and improve students’ understanding of national security”, according to the guidelines.
Schools should also stop students and teachers from participating in activities deemed as political, such as singing certain songs, wearing various items, forming human chains or shouting slogans.
Teachers and principals are required to inspect noticeboards, remove books that endanger national security from libraries and call police if they suspected any breaches.
The bureau said national security education will become part of subjects such as geography and biology to enhance students’ sense of national identity.
International and private schools will also have a “responsibility” to adopt aspects of national security into their curriculums.
The guidelines come after Chinese leaders turned to re-education in a bid to tame the city’s youth, with many of the demonstrators during the 2019 protests having been teenagers.
The security law allowing the new guidelines has been widely criticised in the West and prompted the UK to open up a new visa route for up to three million people.
Head of Hong Kong’s Professional Teachers’ Union, Ip Kin-yuen, said the guidelines would cause “uncertainty, ambiguity and anxiety” for teachers and enforce a “restrictive and suppressive” education style.
Raymond Yeung, a former teacher partially blinded by a projectile during 2019 protests, described the guidelines as “one dimensional, if not brainwashing”.
However, not everyone was opposed to the changes.
“It’s a good start, no matter who you are and where are you from, you have to love your country,” said one mother of a six-year-old child.
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