Hong Kong unveils national security guidelines for children aged six and above
HONG KONG, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Hong Kong has unveiled controversial guidelines for schools in the Chinese-ruled city that include teaching students as young as six about foreign interference and subversion as part of a new national security curriculum.
Beijing imposed the new security law in June 2020 in response to months of often violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019, bringing the global financial hub more firmly on an authoritarian path.
The Education Bureau's guidelines, released late on
Thursday, show that Beijing's plans for semi-autonomous Hong Kong go beyond quashing dissent, and aim for a societal overhaul to bring its most restive city more in line with the Communist Party-ruled mainland.
"National security is of great importance. Teachers should not treat it as if it is a controversial issue for discussion as usual," the guidelines said.
Teachers should "clearly point out that safeguarding national security is the responsibility of all nationals and that as far as national security is concerned, there is no room for debate or compromise."
Children in primary schools will learn how to sing and "respectfully listen" to the national anthem, learn about police and the People's Liberation Army as protectors of Hong Kong, as well as about the four main offences in the security law, including terrorism and secessionism.
In secondary schools, pupils will learn about the challenges and opportunities the Chinese nation faces on the world stage and what constitutes the four main offences, which can carry sentences of up to life in prison.
Some legal scholars have said the law's language is broad and vague, and the range of activities authorities might see as potential threats to national security was unclear and fluid.
The bureau said it accepted international and private schools have different curricula, but said they had a "responsibility to help their students (regardless of their ethnicity and nationality) acquire a correct and objective understanding and apprehension of the concept of national security."
Schools should also stop students and teachers from participating in activities deemed as political, such as singing certain songs or shouting slogans. Teachers and principals are required to inspect noticeboards and remove books that endanger national security from libraries.
(Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom and Sarah Wu in Toronto; writing by Marius Zaharia; editing by Richard Pullin)
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