A new Hong Kong public school textbook uses an image depicting a “gun-toting Mickey Mouse” to illustrate how multinational corporations enter developing countries and “invade local cultures,” the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Thursday.
“[A]n image in new teaching materials to be used in Hong Kong’s schools … depicts Mickey Mouse and Goofy lookalikes in military uniforms, fighter planes dropping hamburgers instead of bombs, and evil versions of McDonald’s characters Ronald McDonald and Grimace,” according to the Hong Kong-based SCMP.
“Accompanying the cartoon of the cultural invasion are teaching guidelines suggesting pupils can learn how multinational corporations entering local markets in developing countries have invaded local cultures. The message is largely one of anti-cultural imperialism,” SCMP reported after reviewing a preview of the high school textbook.
The book chapter in which the cartoon is featured “encouraged pupils to discuss Western influence on global values, as well as whether cultural homogenization or diversity had been a result of that,” according to the newspaper.
“The political cartoon, depicting a ‘cultural invasion’ by US multinational firms, appears in the first set of books under a controversial planned overhaul of the liberal studies subject,” the newspaper reported.
The textbook’s publisher, Marshall Cavendish Education, recently released draft versions of the liberal studies book set to teachers. The inclusion of the anti-U.S. cartoon in one of the books sparked public criticism in Hong Kong this week.
A spokesperson for Marshall Cavendish Education responded to the backlash on April 29, telling SCMP the books were designed as “transitional teaching materials mainly for teachers’ reference and might be updated after consulting educators.”
Hong Kong’s education bureau announced in late November that it would significantly overhaul the curriculum of a mandatory liberal studies course taught in the city’s public high schools since 2009. Hong Kong’s pro-China leaders had criticized the course, which taught concepts such as civil disobedience, for contributing to the launch of the city’s now-waning pro-democracy movement in the summer of 2019.
Hong Kong’s education bureau said on November 26 it would “revamp” the liberal studies course curriculum to emphasize China’s “development, the constitution, the Basic Law [Hong Kong’s de facto constitution] and the rule of law,” Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reported at the time.
The announcement followed five months after China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in late June 2020 that largely quashed the city’s pro-democracy movement. The movement called for decreased Chinese influence in Hong Kong, which was granted limited freedoms upon its return to China from Britain post-colonial rule. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement inspired over half a million people to take to the city’s streets at its height in June 2019.
China’s ruling Communist Party imposed the national security law on Hong Kong with the goal of stamping out the pro-democracy movement, which continued for over a year after its start. The national security law created new crimes in Hong Kong, such as terrorism, secession, collusion with a foreign government, and “subversion of state power,” designed as a vague catchall.
Anyone in Hong Kong found guilty of national security crimes faces a minimum of ten years in prison. Hong Kong government authorities have used the new law to arrest and assign lengthy prison sentences to the pro-democracy movement’s most prominent leaders in recent weeks and months.