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Rights education faces challenges

Half of the respondents would give up human rights and rule of law for social stability

Rights education faces challenges
The program for students to understand the June 4 Incident. reporter, Hong Kong
Hong Kong

June 9, 2011

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Some local educators are willing to give up human rights and rule of law in return for social harmony, a survey revealed today. The Hong Kong Institute of Education released its survey on high school teachers’ teaching on rule of law and human rights between May and October 2010. Head researcher Dr. Leung Yan-wing said the result shows teachers have a positive attitude towards human rights and the rule of law. However, they have little understanding or distorted concepts to these core values. According to the report, half of the respondents are willing to give up human rights and rule of law for social stability and harmony. It is believed to be related to the government’s negligence and the scarcity of resources provided for rights education. “The result makes us worry if the teachers have sufficient knowledge to teach these topics,” said Leung, a Protestant. Meanwhile, Catholic workers also noted that self-censorship exists in some schools. Or Yan-yan, a member of the Catholic Organizations in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said their group feels there is censorship in some schools, which makes it difficult for students to understand the truth of the June 4 Incident, often referred to as the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Some principals asked them  to encourage students to be less critical, said Or, who is also a project officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. “They think it is problematic whenever we raise criticism,” she noted. Many schools emphasized positive developments of China in class while the cause and history of the June 4 Incident is seldom mentioned, if not omitted, she noted. In view of this, the Catholic group runs seminars to help young people understand the June 4 events at around that time each year. The organization gives the students information about the incident, including backgrounder, a time-line and who’s-who, and screens a film for discussion. Michelle Siu, a Catholic liberal studies teacher, said students are like blotting paper. “They absorb whatever comes to them and this is very dangerous.” Young people “cannot be lazy” when reading news and information. They need to have critical thinking to find out the truth, she noted. The survey sent out 2,300 questionnaires to 460 schools with liberal studies classes and received 791 completed questionnaires from 255 schools. Related reports: Guided tour revisits ‘June 4 Incident’ HK faithful vow to keep up June 4 prayer rallies
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