Three Fathoms Observatory
Stewart Yeung








                                                                                                                                                                                               Life Contemplation

Reflecting on the recent controversy of National Education(8 September 2012)






Reflecting on the recent controversy of National Education, two thoughts come to my mind. The first one is a mundane one, just about how to play games, while the second one is more profound, about the future of Hong Kong.

I recall the old days durig my study in the UK when the Labour Party was agitating the coal-miners to go on strike with a view to undermining the Conservative Government by paralyzing its policy of privatization/closing down unprofitable coal-mines (later found to be good for the UK's economy). Every day there were new political games, albeit disguised in various forms. In the game, who has the public opinion on their side will have the upper hand. In one way or another, many coal-miners were harmed in the fight.

Here and now in Hong Kong the Opposition is playing similar political games. The Opposition deliberately dodged the questions of HOW to teach the subject and adopt an irreconcilable stance. They instead agitated the teachers and students to go on strike, fuelled emotional responses, shut out different views by refusing to join the discussion with Government. I think their aim is to undermine the Government, and wittingly or unwittingly, to sway the choice of the electors by aousing their fear of political indoctrination, communist style. If this is their trump card, they surely will escalate the events towards the LegCo Election Day.

The Government’s stance is clear : in case of disagreement, let's meet and discuss, reconcile, seek better alternatives and solve the problems. These behaviors are the hallmarks of democracy. However, the voice of rationality will not be well heard, partly due to the dominance of the Opposition in the Hong Kong media. The media players do not have to tell lies, they just FOCUS on what they want us to hear, while blurring what they don’t. They play a vital role in swaying the public opinion.

A strategy in playing the game is to prompt Bejing to interfere, thus "proving" the ulterior motive of introducing National Education and winning majority support. So the Hong Kong media prompted the Chinese Education Minister to comment on this controversy. However the Minister's response was unexpectedly mild and appropriate, basically saying that it would not interfere in Hong Kong’s local affairs.

I personally know Mrs. Carrie Lam as my HKU alumnus. I have good reasons to believe she would not introduce any so-called "brainwash" in the education system in Hong Kong. She recently said she could not comprehend why some people in Hong Kong didn’t trust the Government despite the latter's effort to do it's job well.

At a more profound level, all political controversies in Hong Kong boil down to the question of whether you TRUST the Government or not. I recalled Martin Lee, when asked whether the Democratic Party would join the SAR governing team if invited, proclaimed "... No...because they are Communists." His premise is a sinister Government. I could comprehend the nature of this profound mistrust. Our CIVIL WAR was merely 60 years ago, followed in its aftermath by the Cultural Revolution, etc. Opposite groups KILLED and HURT each other mercilessly then. This legacy of animosity is still prevalent, especially in Chinese societies of political refugees such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. It is human nature that one harbours extreme hatred and wants to avenge the opposite group if one/one's beloved were harmed/KILLED in the political conflict.With this emotion of animosity harboured deeply within one’s mind, one could no longer sit down to discuss, reconciliate and seek alternative solutions with rationality.

After written the above, here and now veteran political leaders Cardinal Zen (yes, he is playing a cardinal political role in Hong Kong), Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai(???, the media tycoon) have just visited the students protesting outside the Government HQs. As predicted, the Opposition has escalated the protest outside the Government HQs towards its climax by rallying a huge crowd on 7-8 September, just before the LegCo Election Day on 9 September.

When I hear the emotional phrase of "shameless" being hurled at people with disagreeable views quite a lot these days in Hong Kong I become alarmed. A hallmark of DEMOCRACY is to allow every one to express one's view freely without worrying about being threatened. To express a view true to oneself, albeit unpopular, is not "shameless", it should be regarded as courage. I worry that in these opposition movements our children in Hong Kong will be trained how to fight, not how to think; I worry they will be trained for new civil wars, not for becoming a democratic citizen.

Gradually I was lost in thoughts of our miserable recent national histories of Opium War, Sino-Japanese War, ...I couldn't help but cry. I cry for China, for without national unity, China was, is and will always be a loser. Then I wake up and return to the spirit of optimism. I wish this deadlock exists ONLY AT THIS JUNCTURE IN CHINESE HISTORY. I wish this animosity of our civil war will dissipate with TIME, for a few more generations, perhaps, just like what has happened to the US after the American Civil War.

Footnote 1 : I think the Government, in introducing this subject, has the moral high ground (vis-à-vis those who opposes it). Every modern nation teaches this subject in one form or another. Think of John Kennedy's famous quote "Ask not what the Country can do for you; ask what you can do for your Country". This IS National Education. The US has since become a strong and united nation.

Footnote 2 : If the premise is a sinister Government, then there will be political indoctrination no matter there is a formalized national education subject or not. I've come across a US book "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" by James W. Loewen and read the part on how the American patriots treat the subject of the Vietnam War.