Hong Kong instructs schools to teach national security

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Feb. 5 (UPI) — Months after Beijing imposed a draconian national security law upon Hong Kong, the former British colony unveiled guidelines instructing schools to teach controversial national security education to students as young as six years old.

“The fundamentals of national security education are to develop in students a sense of belonging toward a country, an affection for the nation, a sense of national identity as well as an awareness of and a sense of responsibility to safeguard national security,” a notice issued to schools late Thursday by the Education Bureau said. “It should enable students to become good citizens who have a sense of national identity, show respect for the rule of law and abide by the law.”

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The guidelines were announced six months after Beijing imposed the widely condemned national security law upon the city at the end of June following a year of mass pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong.

The law criminalizes with hefty sentences acts of secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and working with foreign agencies to undermine national security of China in Hong Kong.

The Education Bureau said in a press release that the national security law stipulates for the Hong Kong government to strengthen its work to safeguard national security and prevent “terrorist activities.”

A spokesman with the bureau said the law was enacted to prevent, suppress and impose punishment against acts that threaten national security but that “preventive efforts should be given priority to minimize the need for suppression or punishment.”

“As far as prevention and education are concerned, schools have a significant role to play,” the spokesman said.

Under the new rules, schools are instructed to inform police as well as parents of students who are involved in “political propaganda” such as chanting slogans, posting political material or promoting a political stance, the Hong Kong Free Post reported.

The rules also state that national security should be taught through various subjects from general studies to geography and biology as “national security eduction is a part of, and inseparable from, national education,” the Education Bureau said.

The notice adds that schools should teach kindergarten students to understand Hong Kong as China and their identity as Chinese.

They will also be taught the four crimes listed under the new national security law as well as learn about the national flag and anthem, among others, to “guide students in fulfilling responsibilities as a national and Hong Kong resident.”

International schools and private schools in the city that teach their own curriculum “have the responsibility to help their students (regardless of their ethnicity and nationality) acquire a correct and objective understanding and appreciation of the concept of national security and the national security law,” the notice said.

The new rules were announced after Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s pro-China chief executive, said in her annual policy address at the end of November that the protests of 2019 have “led many to question again the effectiveness of Hong Kong’s education.”

Police arrested more than 10,000 people in connection to the mass protests of which 40% were students and nearly 2,000 were primary and secondary students.

“We cannot bear to see that with the infiltration of politics into school campuses, students are drawn into political turbulence or even misled to engage in illegal and violent acts, for which they have to take legal responsibilities that will impact on their lives,” she said. “The social incidents also reveal that the law-abiding awareness of some young people is weak and that positive values such as mutual understanding and mutual respect are lacking.”