Hong Kong’s Waves of Protest Against “Brainwashing”
As political education comes to Hong Kong’s schools, students and citizens say “No!”
On August 30, in front of the central government complex in Hong Kong, two young men and a girl started a three-day hunger strike that should have ended on September 2. Instead, their strike turned into a rally. In those three days more than a dozen students, parents, and citizens joined the hunger strike, while tens of thousands of others are now enraged and protesting. There are tents, marquees, banners, flags, and posters in front of the government center. People are singing, shouting slogans, and having discussions. The mass movement is peaceful, joyful, and passionate, but the citizens of Hong Kong have realized that they are not powerless and that they do not want to be a silent majority. The Hong Kong Federation of Students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have also organized a student strike for September 11 and more than one hundred organizations from ten other universities have declared that they will join the strike on that day.
- During the Cultural Revolution, people were sentenced to death or outright murdered because of one wrong sentence. In China today writers do not lose their lives over their poems or articles; however, they are jailed for years. My friend Liu Xiaobo for example will stay in prison till 2020; even winning the Nobel Peace Prize could not help him. In prison those lucky enough not to be sentenced to hard labor play “blind chess” to kill time AND TO TRAIN THE BRAIN NOT TO RUST. Freedom of expression is still a luxury in China. The firewall is everywhere, yet words can fly above it and so can our thoughts. My column, like the blind chess played by prisoners, is an exercise to keep our brains from rusting and the situation in China from indifference.
- Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.
“Be a good citizen in times of darkness” is the slogan for this third wave of protests in Hong Kong, evoked by the dissemination of a booklet called The China Model. The booklet was produced by the National Education Services Centre with the recommendation that all public schools use it in civics education. Most Hong Kong citizens believe that this signals the start of “brainwash” education. In the 34-page booklet, the CCP’s one-party system is praised and described as progressive, selfless, and a party of solidarity; while democratic multiparty systems, such as the United States, are full of intrigue, fights between factions, and signal disaster for the people.
“We just couldn’t let this happen. Since Hong Kong’s hand-over to China in 1997, freedom of expression and freedom of research in the university have been deteriorating. Now they’re stretching the hand to the primary and middle school,” said Patrick Poon, secretary general of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, on July 25. The people in Hong Kong are used to being called “economic animals, ” but rapid changes in the inextricable and complex relationship the region has with China have woken them up. The yearly commemoration of the June 4 massacre was impressive and moving. This year it was said that 180,000 people participated in the memorial vigil, although the authority’s count is much lower at only 85,000. A week later, on June 10, around 25,000 people spontaneously went to the street to protest the alleged murder of the Tiananmen veteran Li Wangyang, who died last year in a hospital in Shaoyang, Hu’nan Province.
This July 1 was the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong’s hand-over from Great Britain to China. On the same day, when Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive and Beijing-obedient politician, assumed office, 400,000 people gathered to oppose his accession. Their opposition is based on fears that Leung will hold his loyalty to Beijing above the will and benefits of Hong Kong’s people. A man who said that it was better to give the Nobel Peace prize to Deng Xiaoping than Liu Xiaobo is just not to be trusted.
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