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Hong Kong: National Education Program Prompts Hunger Strike, Sit-In

Today, Monday 3 September, 2012, is the first school day in Hong Kong after the long summer vacation. Yet students, teachers and parents are not in the mood to welcome the beginning of the new semester.

Three elementary school students from Scholarism, an activist group against the implementation of the controversial national education program, started a three-day hunger strike on August 30, while their supporters are camping outside the government building. The hunger strike ended yesterday on September 2 and ten more students, teachers and parents have since taken it up again, this time without a deadline.

Below is a partial translation of Scholarism's hunger strike statement (via inmediahk.net's Facebook page [zh]):

Scholarism's hunger strike statement, via Facebook.

Scholarism's hunger strike statement, via Facebook.

我們清楚知道生命有多可貴,但我們更清楚我們的下一代不可成為傀儡,我們渴望他們能夠有自己的思考和自己的情感。如今我們放下最基本也是最需要的,不是愚昧,是我們已無計可施了。包圍中聯辦、追擊吳克儉、九萬名市民遊行、擺設街站收集十萬個簽名、追擊候選人、長征……一切一切我們都嘗試了,但政府仍然充耳不聞,「卑鄙是卑鄙者的通行證,高尚是高尚者的墓誌銘」,政府的卑鄙我們看到了,但我們絕不可允許他的通行,我們絕不可低頭,我們堅持信念,要求撤回國民教育科。

為了思想自由,情感自由,為了下一代,為了香港的明天,我們自願絕食,堅決不已。撤回洗腦國民教育課事不宜遲,梁振英政府必須站出來回應訴求,面對民意,你責無旁貸。

We know very clearly how precious life is. At the same time, it is more important that our next generation cannot become puppets. We want them to have independent thinking and emotion. Now we put aside our basic needs. Not that we are stupid. But that there is no other way out. We have tried to surround the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, ambushed Eddie Ng Hak-kim [the head of Education Bureau]; more than 90,000 people took to the street and more than 100,000 joint-signatures have been collected. We forced the Legislative Council candidates to reveal their stands and tried the long march… We tried everything and the government still could not hear our voices. “Vileness is the pass of the vile; Nobleness is the epitaph of the Noble”. We see the vileness of the government but we cannot let it pass. We cannot lower our head. We hold on our belief and demand the national education curriculum be withdrew.

For the freedom of our thoughts and emotion, for the next generation and the future of Hong Kong, we start this hunger strike. The government should not further delay in withdrawing the national education curriculum. CY Leung's government should respond to our demands, to public opinion. This is your duty.

To express their support, a civic coalition organized a carnival and a public assembly outside the government building on September 2, demanding the national education be replaced by more critical citizen education. The video taken by Yuiman Fung below shows various speakers’ statements from the night assembly:

Ten representatives from the coalition announced in the assembly that they would take up the hunger strike. They are university students, teachers and parents; one of the teachers, James, Hon Lin-Shan is over 60 years old. He said [zh]:

如果輸了這一場仗,甚麼一國兩制,港人治港都會逐漸步向滅亡。我們要誓死堅持!

If we lost this battle, we lost the one country two systems and the self-governing of Hong Kong people. We have to fight till the end!
A student-teacher concern group took a protest photo against national education in the school campus on the first school day.

A student-teacher concern group took a protest photo against national education in the school campus on the first school day, via the concern group's Facebook page

While the government kept repeating its stand that the curriculum is not mandatory and a committee has been set up to review the curriculum, a leaked document [zh] revealed that the Education Bureau demanded the teacher set up a “national education file” for each student for future reference.

Moreover, the media revealed that a secondary school has demanded their teachers sign an agreement not to expose the details [zh] of the national education curriculum, which means the public cannot monitor the implementation of the curriculum.

The civic coalition urged students, teachers and concerned citizens to dress in black on the first school day to protest against the de facto blacklist and the implementation of the curriculum. Some elementary schools students and teachers form national education concern groups within the schools and took protest photos, saying no to the national education curriculum.

After the first school day, thousands of students, teachers and parents in black continued to gather outside the government building pressing the government to withdraw the curriculum. The birds eye view photo below was taken by a civil servant working inside the government building at 5pm today (September 2). Image from Scholarism's Facebook page:

There were more than 8,000 protestors at around 7pm this evening and Scholarism urged more citizens [zh] to join in the overnight sit-in outside the government building. Two hunger strikers are reported to have suffered from low-blood sugar and been sent to the hospital.

A panoramic view of the September 3 after school gathering outside the government building. Image from Scholarism on Facebook.

A panoramic view of the September 3 after school gathering outside the government building. Image from Scholarism on Facebook.

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