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Hong Kong parents protest China patriotism lessons

/ 07:59 PM July 29, 2012

Thousands of people march on a downtown street in Hong Kong Sunday, July 29, 2012, to protest the upcoming introduction in schools of Chinese patriotism classes that they fear will lead to brainwashing. AP PHOTO/VINCENT YU

HONG KONG—Thousands of stroller-pushing Hong Kong parents and activists Sunday protested a plan to introduce national education lessons, slamming it as a bid to brainwash children with Chinese propaganda.

The government plan has sparked a public outcry, with a teachers’ union branding it “political interference” from the mainland.

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Police said 19,000 demonstrators took part in the noisy protest, which was led by parents and young students. The organizers have yet to release their own estimates.

“As a parent, I’m very angry, this is a blatant brainwashing,” mother-of-three Sandra Wong said as she marched in the sweltering heat accompanied by her husband and pushing her two-year-old daughter in a stroller.

“The curriculum only paints a rosy picture about the Communist Party… This is just an attempt to introduce the mainland agenda in Hong Kong schools,” she said.

Under the proposal students would take 50 hours of lessons a year focusing on “building national harmony, identity and unity among individuals,” according to the government.

The government has rejected criticisms and said it would push ahead with the plan, with government-run primary schools expected to start introducing the subject in September. It is due to become compulsory in 2015.

Officials have said the subject is important to foster a sense of national pride and belonging, amid rising anti-Beijing sentiment 15 years after the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule.

“Brainwashing is against Hong Kong’s core values, we would not support or accept that,” Education Minister Eddie Ng said on Saturday.

A poll released by the University of Hong Kong last month showed the number of Hong Kong people identifying themselves as citizens of China had plunged to a 13-year-low.

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TAGS: China, Education, Hong Kong, protest
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