Hong Kong teachers will have to educate students on their responsibilities to the nation and explain the consequences of trying to stage a revolution once the new national security law is in place, pro-Beijing heavyweight Elsie Leung Oi-sie says.
Speaking at a seminar on Friday attended by educationists, the former secretary for justice recalled attending a recent discussion with a group of teachers, during which one asked if students could still be taught about revolution once the new law was in force.
The anxious history teacher referred to Chinese revolutionary leaders Sun Yat-sen, who overthrew the Qing dynasty, and Mao Zedong, who established the People’s Republic of China, and asked if such subjects could be discussed.
“I said I agreed with critical teaching methods, but the first thing you should tell students is that everyone is responsible to their country,” said Leung, a former vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee.
“If you are really dissatisfied with the regime and you really push ahead with a revolution, you should consider [the Chinese saying], ‘The winner is king, the loser an outlaw’. When you lose and fail, you will be beheaded. And there’s no achieving justice by violating the law.”
She was addressing about 100 teachers and principals at a seminar held by the pro-government Shine Tak Foundation to discuss the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
Beijing is expected to pass the national security law by June 30 and it is likely to take effect immediately. Tailor-made for Hong Kong, it aims to prevent, stop and punish acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.
According to a decision by the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature, the law will request the city leader to launch education on national security.
Education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said on Wednesday that his bureau would study ways to teach students about the law, highlighting important clauses and their significance.
He confirmed the Education Bureau had asked Pui Ching Middle School to investigate complaints after its vice-principal’s name appeared alongside students, teachers and alumni who signed a petition against the national security law.
Yeung said the problem was serious as the act could be misconstrued as the school’s official stance.
Speaking at Friday’s seminar, Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer of the University of Hong Kong’s faculty of law, referred to the Pui Ching incident and said he was worried that academic freedom and freedom of speech were under threat.
He said there were double standards at play in the response to educationists who signed a petition in support of the national security law and those who opposed it.
“If your stance is pro-government, it is fine, but if you oppose it, you are accused of violating professional guidelines,” Cheung said. “What I am worried about most is whether students can be trained to think critically in this atmosphere.”
Meanwhile, Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Maria Tam Wai-chu on Friday gave the strongest indication yet that the national security law could be passed during a special three-day meeting of China’s top legislative body, starting on Sunday.
Although it is not yet on the agenda of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, she said on a morning radio programme that as many as 10 representatives from Hong Kong and all members of the Basic Law Committee had been invited to attend.
Asked if Beijing had sought opinions on the draft bill, Tam said the views of those who did not accept the fundamental grounds for the law were irrelevant.
“If those people are opposing it in principle, there is nothing left to discuss,” she said.
Friday also saw activists marching on foreign consulates in Hong Kong, urging Group of 20 nations to impose sanctions on Beijing or to at least speak out against the legislation.
Police also rejected applications by opposition district councillor Andy Chui Chi-kin to hold a protest against the law on Sunday and on July 1.
Additional reporting by Chris Lau
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This article National security law: critical teaching methods are fine, but Hong Kong students must learn pitfalls of pushing for revolution, Elsie Leung says first appeared on South China Morning Post