Hong Kong’s education ministry released guidelines on Thursday to teach schoolchildren as young as six years old to abide by the city’s national security law, imposed by China on Hong Kong last summer.
The Hong Kong education bureau published extensive guidelines for the new curriculum on February 4, along with an animated video that teaches the national security law’s basic concepts to primary school students.
Under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, China is legally bound to allow Hong Kong to establish its own laws and not obey Beijing’s since Britain returned the city to China in 1997. Violating the policy, China illegally imposed a “national security” law on the city in June 2020 to curb a pro-democracy protest movement that had swept Hong Kong since the previous summer. The law established new crimes — including secession, terrorism, and subversion of state power — punishable with up to life in prison. The minimum sentence for those found guilty is ten years in prison.
“Students made up nearly 40 percent of those arrested during the height of the demonstrations,” the New York Times noted on Friday, a statistic that led many Hong Kong government officials to accuse teachers of “corrupting young minds and turning them against Hong Kong and China.” The Hong Kong education bureau’s new national security law guidelines seem to confirm Beijing’s lack of trust in the city’s schools to produce sufficiently obedient pupils.
Children in primary schools will be required to learn how to “sing and respect” China’s national anthem, as part of an emphasis on building a sense of pride in Communist Party identity. The guidelines encourage schools to “organize various game activities, such as puppet theatre, board games … to establish a good atmosphere and improve students’ understanding of national security.” The education bureau will incorporate the new curriculum into wide-ranging subjects, including geography and biology, “to enhance students’ sense of national identity.”
“National security is of great importance. Teachers should not treat it as if it is a controversial issue for discussion as usual,” the guidelines state. Instructors should “clearly point out that safeguarding national security is the responsibility of all nationals and that as far as national security is concerned, there is no room for debate or compromise.”
“It is definitely not too early to start from primary school,” Hong Kong Education Secretary Kevin Yeung told reporters on February 5 of the new national security curriculum. “We can start from simple things first. In middle school, we can study further.”
“In general, we are pointing to the concept of national security, and hope to train students to consciously take up the responsibility of upholding national security,” Yeung said, as quoted by the New York Times.