The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has unveiled plans to promote “patriotic education” in Hong Kong. The decision comes as the city continues its protests against Beijing and wants to maintain its democracy and freedoms. The Party believes that patriotic education would achieve ideological unity and promote the “One China” identity in the region. In addition to Hong Kong, the plan will also be implemented in Macau.
The CCP’s plan envisages patriotic education right from kindergarten all the way to university. The aim is to instill socialist values in children and to weed out “foreign influence.” Both Hong Kong and Macau are former colonial territories. Shen Chunyao, chairman of the National People’s Congress’s Basic Law Committee, stated that the Party wants “patriots” to form the main body of the leaders selected from the two regions.
The patriotic education guidelines issued by the CCP’s Central Committee and State Council define patriotism as not just love for the country, but also for socialism and the Party. “[We should] strengthen the practical education of ‘one country, two systems’, channel people including compatriots in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan and overseas Chinese so they can have a stronger sense of national identity, and will conscientiously safeguard national unity and cohesion of the Chinese race,” the guidelines state (South China Morning Post).
According to Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong at Nankai University in Tianjin, patriotic education is necessary to “correct” the identity crisis felt by young Hong Kongers. The guidelines call for the use of new technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality to attract and educate teenagers on patriotism. However, it is doubtful whether such attempts will generate true patriotism among the people since they will be required to love the Party as well. Any sensible, freedom-loving person would find respecting an authority that curbs their opinions quite impossible.
“Love shouldn’t be about parroting set phrases. It should come from the heart, not from external sources… Propaganda is not education. Propaganda is indoctrination, a kind of coercion, forcing you to believe in a particular doctrine or concept… If you don’t believe in it, measures will be taken to compel you to believe in it, and you will be re-educated or come under a lot of pressure,” Guo Yuhua, a professor of sociology at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said to Radio Free Asia.