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Government backtracks on 'brainwashing' class

Church leaders warn that the fight is not over

Cardinal Joseph Zen joined the protest on Friday night Cardinal Joseph Zen joined the protest on Friday night
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • September 10, 2012
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The Hong Kong government says it is scrapping its three-year deadline for local schools to add a new Moral and National Education course to their curriculum.

The announcement led to the official end of a 10-day student-led protest against the subject's introduction.  The protesters say the content of the course is excessively nationalistic and presents a sanitized version of  Chinese history.

Government Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told a press conference that schools and school-sponsoring bodies would have full autonomy to decide when and how to introduce the subject, if at all.

But Franciscan Father Stephen Chan, ecclesiastical adviser to the Hong Kong diocese Justice and Peace Commission, warned that Leung’s statement was potentially misleading. “It’s merely an adjustment to the timetable rather than a policy change,” he told ucanews.com today.

He stated the belief that the government would lobby schools and their sponsors to launch the subject with threats and incentives, and advised protesters to prepare for a long campaign.

About 286,000 people took part in the 10-day sit-in outside the government headquarters, with numbers reaching an estimated peak of 120,000 on Friday evening.

Wearing black T-shirts, the large but peaceful crowd shouted slogans and crossed their arms together to say no to what they called a “brainwashing” education plan.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, retired bishop of Hong Kong, joined the protest on Friday evening and conveyed his support to 14 students and others who had gone on hunger strike.

He told reporters he felt heartache to see that students had to resort to a hunger strike to voice their concerns. He also expressed disappointment that the government refused to cancel the plan altogether.

“I hope the young people will remain calm and not escalate their action,” he said. “If the government wants to use a delaying tactic, then we have no choice but to protract [the protest].”

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