Nationalism in Hong Kong

Aug 25th 2012 The Economist

Patriot games

Teaching Hong Kongers how to be patriotic can cut both ways

HOW Chinese is Hong Kong? Two recent issues have highlighted the territory・s contradictory attitudes toward the mainland. On August 22nd seven Hong Kongers belonging to the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands returned to a heroes・ welcome. They had sailed their fishing boat to those barren rocks (known as the Senkakus by the Japanese, who administer them), and were detained briefly after landing there. The group・s supporters range from pro-Beijing front groups to radical democrats who abhor the Communist Party. Hong Kong・s new chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, applauded the seamen from a distance, as did some of his sharpest detractors. Defending hallowed soil from Japan is something that everyone can agree on.

seven Hong Konger defenders
seven Chinese territory defenders

seven Hong Kongers sailing their fishing boat to the disputed island
Hong Kong people gave support to seven Hong Kongers sailing their fishing boat to the disputed island

landing on the disputed island

Just hours earlier, however, the government was paddling back from a much less successful attempt at teaching patriotism. The education bureau said it would form a special committee :to allay public concern; over the city・s new Moral and National Education curriculum.

:National Education; has been around since 2003, when officials in BeijingXmany of whom equate patriotism with supporting the Communist PartyXbegan worrying in earnest about whether Hong Kongers were patriotic enough. (Although annexed by China since 1997, the former British colony enjoys its own political and legal system.)

What ignited recent fury was a textbook titled :The China Model; which was to be given to students in the autumn. Its sections on modern history are a crude rehash of mainland propaganda, omitting any mention of the Cultural Revolution or the Tiananmen Square protests, and extolling the virtues of one-party rule: :multiparty politics could victimise people, whereas concentrated political power creates a selfless government and stable society.;

The curriculum has been a blunder. Set alongside the Diaoyu debate, it has reminded Hong Kongers that it is possible to love China while loathing the Communist Party. A crucial round of elections to the Legislative Council, the territory・s version of a parliament, is due on September 9th. As the date approaches, none of the Communist Party・s local cheerleaders wants to be seen defending the education bureau・s misstep. Safer to hail victorious Chinese OlympiansXvisiting Hong Kong on August 24thXand patriotic rock-hopping fishermen.