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China Crushes Freedom to Teach in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong was a British colony for a century and a half. Under British rule, the people of Hong Kong enjoyed democratic freedoms. On July 1, 1997, the British relinquished control and Hong Kong became part of China as a special administrative region. The Chinese government promised to maintain “one country, two systems.” Over the years the Chinese government has asserted tighter control, inspiring rebellions among the people of Hong Kong, who resisted absorption into the government of the Mainland. Twenty-three years after the removal of British rule, mainland China is clamping down, hard, to stamp out freedom of speech, freedom of thought, even freedom to teach.

This article in the Los Angeles Times describes the government’s tightening of control over teachers and textbooks. Teachers who dare to speak out have been purged.

One of the greatest threats to freedom in Hong Kong is China’s intensifying pressure on schools over what to put in the minds of students. Textbooks are being rewritten, teachers are being purged and history is being erased under a new national security law to bring this once freewheeling city more firmly into China’s grip…

With China’s tightening control over Hong Kong, including passage of a new national security law, the territory’s pro-democracy activists, politicians, journalists and others are facing a Communist Party determined to crush dissent. Perhaps the greatest threat from this new purge — one that will affect generations to come — is the increasing pressure on schools and teachers over what to put in the minds of students. Both activists and bureaucrats know that a nation’s soul is distilled in the classroom; history can be erased with the silencing of teachers and rewriting of textbooks.

A Hong Kong art teacher who calls himself Vawongsir expresses his thoughts through pro-democracy doodles.
A Hong Kong art teacher going by the name Vawongsir expresses his thoughts through pro-democracy doodles, which he shares online anonymously. He lost his teaching job after a complaint was made to the authorities.(Chan Long Hei / For The Times)
“They are turning education into a tool for controlling thought in Hong Kong,” said Ip Kin-yuen, a pro-democracy lawmaker representing the education sector who is vice president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union. “There are a lot of cases of teachers being wronged, facing exaggerated accusations. I would describe it as political persecution.”

Hong Kong is being remade before the world. Chinese leader Xi Jinping is capitalizing on his country’s economic power and the planet’s preoccupation with the coronavirus to rein in Hong Kong’s democratic ambitions. Xi wants to subsume this defiant territory into his vision of national unity, even as China faces diplomatic fallout, most notably from the Trump administration, which has drawn closer to a new Cold War with Beijing in a fraught time of high-tech surveillance, shifting supply chains and America’s fallen stature of a global leader.

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