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More than a hundred students protest Hong Kong ‘brainwashing education’ in Melbourne

MORE than a hundred students from different nationalities gathered at Melbourne University to protest plans to introduce a controversial pro-China curriculum in Hong Kong schools. Cherish Li reports.

On September 22, more than a hundred students of different nationalities gathered at Melbourne University to protest plans for a pro-China curriculum in Hong Kong schools.

The president of the Anti-Hong Kong National Education Melbourne, Anthony Po, called it a successful event, with an estimated 160 people in attendance to share their thoughts and opinions on the controversial issue.

“We are providing this platform for people who don’t know where or how to speak up,” he said.

“We don’t hold any political positions, we only focused on the curriculum itself.”

The Hong Kong government had planned to make “A China Model-National Education Brochure” a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools by 2016, to promote a deeper sense of identification among local residents with mainland China.

But the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Chun Ying Leung, decided to cancel the “three year deadline” and gave schools a choice as to whether or not they should take up the subject after a series of mass protests.

Brainwashing education?

Despite these victories, students like Panpan Tung gathered at South Lawn to express their dissatisfaction with what they label as “brainwashing education”.

Ms Tung, a Hong Kong national, said her country would not end their protests until the government abandoned the “untruthful” subject entirely.

“Students don’t have independent thinking so they will just believe what they learn from the books,” she said.

“I think the existence of this subject is more likely to flatter China.

“I think what the students need is not ‘the truth’ from the books but developing the critical thinking by themselves.”

Recent graduate Samuel Yeung said the “national education” plan was just “a political mission that was assigned by the Central government to Hong Kong Chief Executive Chun Ying Leung.”

“In fact, I am only just against the Communist Party of China which always blocks the freedom of speech and press in China, and now they are going to push their values towards our next generation,” he said.

Mainland Chiese student Roland Tang said as a Chinese he agrees with the idea of “national education”, but he is against the idea of forcing it on Hong Kong.

“As Hong Kong has always been self-governing, it is their right to protect their freedom and education system,” he said.

“They have the right to choose what they want to learn. It has to be voluntary.”

Widespread support

The protest was not limited to students from Hong Kong and China, but had support from people of other nationalities as well.

Malaysian student Wei Zheng said he supported the protest because he could relate to how Hong Kong residents feel.

“The government in my country is like that as well, so I can totally understand what people would feel when situations like this happen,” said Mr Zheng.

An overreaction?

Despite the seemingly large amount of support from students in Australia, there were those who were opposed to the idea.

An international student from Mainland China, Jiaqing Lu, said people from Hong Kong are just “making a fuss about this whole ‘brainwashing education’ thing”.

“Some people from Hong Kong are just too stubborn,” she said.

“In their mind, China is still like in the 60s, or 70s, and they think the Chinese government is trying to control everything, and they are afraid of that.

“But no, to be fair, China is changing.”

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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