Saturday, 8 September 2012

The People 1, Leung Chun-ying 0

Does that look like 36,000 people to you or 100,000?
The people have spoken and the Hong Kong government has backed down -- sort of.

A day after organizers said 100,000 people descended on the grounds of the government offices in Tamar -- practically all of them wearing black in protest against national education, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said that now it was up to schools to decide if they were going to offer the controversial course or not.

He made the announcement the evening before civic elections tomorrow and some critics are wondering if this is the government's last-ditch attempt to give a boost to pro-government candidates. Otherwise tomorrow's vote would have been a referendum on national education.

Or was it pressure from Beijing to resolve the issue as soon as possible because it was getting too embarrassing to see students on a hunger strike? Even film director John Sham Kin-fun, media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun attended the rally.

Police had claimed the numbers were around 36,000 but from the picture, how many do you think attended?

In any event Leung tried to worm his way out of the issue, putting blame on his predecessor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for passing on this hot potato in the first place.

"I would rather concentrate on housing, poverty and other livelihood issues, because there is no such thing as national education in my election platform," he said.

If there was no national education in his platform, then why did Leung wait until now to claim that?

His attempt to pass the buck makes him look complicit to Beijing; he could have tried to make it look like he was trying to get national education off the agenda, but he went along with it since taking office.

In any event Leung's announcement is not a complete victory to the protesters who will continue their occupation of Tamar until national education is totally scrapped.

National Education was totally flawed from the beginning.

While it's true Hong Kong students don't know much about China, there should have been greater discussion about the content and how it would be taught.

Making students learn the anthem is fine, but having flag-raising ceremonies is soo PRC.

They can learn the basics of how the Chinese government structure is set up, but when it's pretty opaque, how do you even teach that without a hint of derision? And not even mentioning June 1989 is completely absurd for Hong Kong.

And why were two pro-Beijing companies owned by one person given millions of dollars to set the syllabus?

The other big issue was how students would be graded for the course. There was talk about giving marks according to how fervent they were when singing the anthem...

The Hong Kong government totally misread this issue.

Officials probably thought they could easily take on students who would be more concerned about studying than taking to the streets.

But they were dead wrong.

The controversy over the issue, social networking sites and big names helped keep the fire alive for this protest.

The government should not underestimate any kind of dissatisfaction because people are are going to fight for what they want.

Perhaps if Hong Kong had universal suffrage things wouldn't be so contentious...

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