Hong Kong launched a new propaganda campaign about national security in schools on Thursday, with instructions to students to uphold the city’s law and order and show respect to China.
Since last week the government has been promoting National Security Education Day, set for April 15, through television and outdoor advertisements. The Education Bureau urged all primary and secondary schools to hold seminars and flag-raising ceremonies.
On Thursday, some schools spent hours teaching national security topics, while others reportedly spent only 30 minutes, depending on their political stances.
A secondary student told Asia Times that a senior executive at her school gave a speech about the different kinds of national security issues during an assembly on Thursday and answered several questions raised by students.
She said she was told that “people should show respect to the country,” “there are boundaries to freedom of speech,” “everyone must obey the law” and “national security education is not brainwashing, but very common in the West.”
She said before the assembly, all students were given a questionnaire asking them whether they knew about the National Security Law, which was imposed in Hong Kong by Beijing on June 30, 2020.
A primary school pupil said a short animated video about national security was shown in class. According to the video, “Uncle Owl” told two children that people had freedom of expression, but they should not hurt people and society.
The pupil said his classmates were asked to voluntarily join the 2021 National Security Education Day Online Quiz Competition, which is being held between April 12 and 19. The winners will be awarded on the first anniversary of the implementation of the national security law on June 30.
He said he received two stickers and a bookmark about National Security Education Day on Monday.
Some kindergarten teachers told the media they had received stickers and bookmarks from the Education Bureau, but they said the topics were too difficult for their students.
The bookmark lists 16 kinds of “security,” from political and economic security to space and deep-sea security. A student said it was hard to understand the space and deep-sea security, but his teacher explained that “China will work with other countries to explore space and the deep-sea and protect the environment.”
“The Education Bureau will continue to provide relevant training for teachers and render professional support and advice to schools on all fronts, such as school visits and forming teachers’ learning circles,” Kevin Yeung, from the Security for Education body, said Thursday.
Schools could organize inter-class or inter-form activities on the theme of national security, such as a national affairs knowledge quiz, bulletin board design, and slogan design competitions, encouraging students to gather information and conduct project work to foster self-directed learning on security issues, Yeung said.
On July 1, 2015, the standing committee of the National People’s Congress passed a motion to make April 15 National Security Education Day. Hong Kong held some seminars about national security on that day in 2018 and 2019, but moved the instruction online last year due to the pandemic.
This year’s event in the territory has been the largest propaganda event since the national security law was implemented last June.
Luo Huining, the director of Beijing’s liaison office, said in a speech at a ceremony on Thursday that China would “teach foreign forces a lesson” if they tried to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs.
“Any behavior that may affect national security, or the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong … when it is time, actions must be taken,” Luo said. “In relation to any external or foreign forces that may interfere with Hong Kong affairs or attempt to use Hong Kong as a pawn, we will propose strong objections and teach them a lesson.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at the same event that more should be done to increase Hong Kong people’s awareness of national security. She said the anti-government protests in 2019 highlighted a gap in national security which endangered the safety of all Chinese people.
Lam said the introduction of the national security law, as well as the electoral system overhaul, had stabilized the situation.
Meanwhile, four members of the League of Social Democrats and the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China staged a march through Wan Chai on Thursday, demanding universal suffrage for the entire country.
During the protest, the group was surrounded by more than 30 police officers along the way, but was allowed to continue their march after their bags were searched and their ID cards checked.
“We cannot let the government dominate what is meant by national security,” said Chow Hang-tung, vice-chair of the alliance. “The national security law is actually a weapon of mass destruction for Hong Kong.”
Chow said since the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong last June, many groups had disbanded, people had migrated to other places or gone into exile, while press and academic freedom had rapidly deteriorated.
She said the best national security education was to mourn the victims of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square clampdown in Beijing.