More than 1,000 university students in Hong Kong boycotted classes last Tuesday in protest against the pro-Beijing “patriotism” curriculum that was introduced at the beginning of this month.
Despite Hong Kong government’s back down on the plan to make the curriculum compulsory after tens of thousands of people took to the streets, students demanded full withdrawal of the ‘moral and national education’ three days after the government’s response.
Under the blazing sun, students dressed in black and staged a four-hour rally at Chinese University in New Territories.
“It makes no difference. Some schools depend on government support so they may feel pressure if they don’t impose national education,” Winky Wong, a student at City University of Hong Kong, told Reuters. “It’s all excuses. We don’t believe in government excuses.”
Kenneth Chan, associate professor of government and international studies at Baptist University, said children should study Chinese history if they wanted to understand the country better.
"There's no need to have a separate national education," he said. "This move came to us as a political assignment imposed by above (Beijing)."
Leung, speaking ahead of the university protest, urged students to think about what their demands amounted to, according to Reuters.
"If the government withdraws it, that would be tantamount to forbidding schools that want to teach this course from doing so," he said. "I believe this way of doing things is inappropriate for Hong Kong which is a society that values freedom and diversity."
The city of 7 million voted for a new legislature on Sunday, a day after Leung backed down on the education scheme. Leung has emerged as the big political winner in Hong Kong’s legislative elections on Sunday.
Dissatisfaction at the way the government deals with China has risen to the highest level in eight years, according to a survey by the Hong Kong Transition Project, which has tracked changes in the city since its return to China in 1997.
“In the short term, national education is an important issue, but in broader terms many people are concerned about the central government’s influence in Hong Kong,” said Ma Ngok, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.