"No to brainwashing!"
September 8, 2012 12:54 AM   Subscribe

Tens of thousands of protestors have been gathering outside the Hong Kong government headquarters every night since the start of the new school year to protest the introduction of "moral and national education" classes at primary and secondary schools. At the forefront is Scholarism, a student group led by 15-year-old Joshua Wong.

Many are furious about the curriculum guidelines aimed at fostering national pride, which glosses over inconvenient historical events and realities in today's China, as well as the government's non-response to calls for publicising actual teaching materials or consideration of a rollback. Dissatisfaction with the new Chief Executive and his government has been mounting since March, with historically high turnouts for the June 4 Tiananmen vigil and July 1 march.

This could affect the results of the Legislative Council elections on Sunday.
posted by monocot (22 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
(I grew up in Hong Kong, and it's still more than half my life I've spent there.) I can almost guarantee that this would be met with vociferous popular protest even without the human-rights-glossing-over-the-past issue - there is a very very very strong separatist/exceptionalist sentiment in Hong Kong, and this sort of move to promote the idea of Hong Kong as China was always going to hit a brick wall.
posted by Dysk at 1:07 AM on September 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

if you have trouble accessing the FT article because you're out of free article allowances, try the link through Google Search

um, why is the Sri Lanka Guardian's logo the exact same logo as the UK Guardian's? they don't seem to be organizationally related...
posted by Bwithh at 1:12 AM on September 8, 2012

Yeah, this was never going to go well. When the handover back to China was looming in the early 90's, China made all sorts of promises about 'One Country; Two Systems', and HK was supposed be able to maintain its legal system (The UK derived Basic Law), civil freedoms, and 'way of life' generally. But no one believed them. Even as a teenager, I was skeptical. I'm actually surprised that it took this long for China to start with this crap.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:23 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

there is a very very very strong separatist/exceptionalist sentiment in Hong Kong, and this sort of move to promote the idea of Hong Kong as China was always going to hit a brick wall.

Fair enough - there's definitely the economical/cultural superiority complex HKers have, although what I think people are reacting so strongly against is mainly that to identify as "Chinese" nowadays implies support of the Communist Party. That's why people say they are from "Hong Kong". Some HK people are very "Chinese patriotic" (see: Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, donations for natural disasters in the Mainland...) but disagree with the CCP, its history and corruption.
posted by monocot at 1:29 AM on September 8, 2012

There is also the issue of many HKers being upset about PRC soon-to-be parents coming over the border to have kids and so getting access to HK's much superior health, education, and welfare system - with HKers worried about the system becoming overcrowded and unsustainable. Unfortunately this led to a lot of racist (or racist-like?) language in the public debate about this (viral music videos about locusts coming over the border etc.). This issue caused enough HK discontent that I think the PRC govt started trying to control the influx, but it still seems to be an issue.
posted by Bwithh at 1:34 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's not surprising that the Masters of the Mainland would want to push this kind of blatant propaganda in HK, since this is what they feed students in the rest of China as well. And of course if they can convince HK people to care about ridiculous international disputes which have nothing to do with anyone's lives in HK, like the Senkaku Islands dispute, then all the better. The surprising thing isn't that they want this, but that they'd be so ignorant of their own subjects' attitudes and beliefs that they thought it would go over without notice or objection.

The hamfisted manner that the CCP uses to deal with anyone who doesn't already accept their positions is mystifying. I put calling the Dalai Lama someone who committed "monstrous crimes" or pretending that the PRC has some kind of natural claim to the South China Sea when dealing with non-Chinese audiences into the same category. Surely there must be someone in the propaganda office who did her undergrad work in Iowa and understands that this stuff won't work?
posted by 1adam12 at 2:09 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I absolutely don't disagree that the backlash has been stronger than it would otherwise have been because of the human-rights-glossing-over-the-past issues, but I just don't think that's the whole story.
posted by Dysk at 2:15 AM on September 8, 2012

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:16 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

It is true that the change in policies have been completely been passed with the citizens in HK fighting it every way. The reality is, China will do as China wishes. The health and welfare system has already been overtaxed by the people in China crossing the border. The people of HK hardly ever got on the unemployment line or any kind of government assistance program. It was an embarrassment to put your hand out for help. Once the border was opened, the people from China came flooding in and the scam artists came with that crowd. The opportunity for change and wealth always comes with a plentiful group of people who will work the system. It's sad, we fight amongst ourselves but we are all the same people. I get such crap from some Chinese people saying I'm not really Chinese because I'm from HK and do not speak Mandarin (which is now being called putongwa-translated means everyday language. I speak English everyday, should English be called that?!) I love the look of how people think I'm an elitist because I'm from HK. That's the impression they get. It's not how I operate. Anyway, this is just part of how the government is going to wrangle their citizens.
posted by Yellow at 5:54 AM on September 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

China should have just given up on Hong Kong. "We won't take you back; you play by different rules."
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:41 AM on September 8, 2012

Yellow, that's all the more perverse since Cantonese was, about 100 years ago, in the running for becoming the official language of the Republic of China, and had just about the same number of native speakers as the Mandarin language. Not to mention that Cantonese pronunciation is significantly closer to ancient Chinese than Mandarin is.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:00 AM on September 8, 2012

Wowwww that quote... there are no words.

The reality is, China will do as China wishes.
Yes, this. And they are legion, so whatever resistance we put up will be neutralised in the long run as HK becomes more and more economically integrated with the Mainland. My (and many HK democrats') only hope is for the political system in China to collapse/radically change before that happens, which is why it makes sense to support the dissidents, activists and "subversive elements" in China who are the ones risking their lives to change the system.
posted by monocot at 7:19 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's the idea of identifying with the CCP itself that's driving this but a combination of the increasing mainland influence (both good and bad) and the HKSAR government's poor response to social concerns.

Off the top of my head, you have:
  • the government's slow response to mainland expectant-mothers' abuse of jus soli law
  • property prices driven up by mainland investment for the past few years and the government's slow and weak response
  • strong suggestions of outright collusion between property developers and government officials
  • Beijing's control of the wretched HK chief executive election and CY's turnaround win
  • the mini-scandals around various government officials flaunting of property construction laws (eg. illegal structures, 'split-up' unit for renting)
Dissatisfaction has been brewing for a while.

Personally, what riles me about this issue is that senior government officials probably won't even have their children educated in HK at all and won't be affected by this whitewashed revisionist history called national education. One of the new textbooks claim that the single party China system is superior to democratic mutli-parties because they are no infighting and instead, a progressive, altruistic and united party. (See this English article for a bit more info.) It's also been noted for the lack of critical coverage on the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward, especially galling as many, many families in HK suffered greatly in both.

And then you have the attack by the pro-Beijing media groups (eg. ATV's current affairs program on Scholarism and its allegations that Washington and London are behind all this).

There's another 35 years to go but there's a perception that HK culture is under attack and the government is doing little about it under orders from Beijing. I think this is what enables each government mishandling to turn into a protest. The idea of national pride is not the problem (see: 2008 Olympic games, Chinese astronauts touring HK, reception of the island protesters returning to HK) but the CCP's desire to control and manipulate it.

BTW, if you understand Cantonese, you might be interested in RTHK's morning news roundup podcast coverage for the past week or so. They cover the frontpage headlines of all the daily papers, English and Chinese and make obvious where each paper's political allegiance lie.
posted by tksh at 8:13 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

China should have just given up on Hong Kong. "We won't take you back; you play by different rules."

You don't know what you're talking about. The handover was inevitable (much of HK territory was on a 99 year lease from China), and was subject to decades of planning. Plus, HK was and is an insane cash cow; one of the largest and busiest ports in the world, global business hub and gateway for the West to SE Asia. China in the early ninties was not exactly the economic power it is today - they were slavering over the revenue for years before the handover. There was never, ever any doubt that the benefits of reclaiming HK outweighed the trouble it would take to subdue the democratic inclinations of the population.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:15 AM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Plus, to give up on HK would have severely undermined the whole 'One China' line that the CCP was (and still is) running re Taiwan.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:23 AM on September 8, 2012

And there it is: RTHK reports that Govt backs down on national education. The election is tomorrow.
posted by mdonley at 8:28 AM on September 8, 2012

many HKers being upset about PRC soon-to-be parents coming over the border to have kids and so getting access to HK's much superior health, education, and welfare system

With 7 billion people on the planet and most of the easy-to-get-at resources already gone (or polluted), this tension probably prefigures the next century for the whole world. How do you maintain islands of privilege? No matter how the lines are drawn, they're arbitrary - threatening to those left outside and therefore to the privileged. How does capitalism hope to cope? Will surveillance be enough boys and girls?
posted by Twang at 9:55 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not from Hong Kong, but their political system has been a pet interest of mine. (Also, I'm a Chinese-American from Cantonese-speaking stock, so there is a bit of an emotional connection.)

The handover was inevitable (much of HK territory was on a 99 year lease from China)
Plus, trying to separate the New Territories (the leased part) from Kowloon and Hong Kong Island (the ceded part) would have been nigh impossible. The boundary was demarcated by Boundary Street.

The LegCo election tomorrow will be fascinating if you're into voting systems. They use closed-list proportional representation with the Hare quota and highest remainders. This system was put in place by Beijing after the United Democrats of Hong Kong obliterated pro-Beijing parties in first-past-the-post single member district election in 1995. The pan-Democrat to pro-Beijing vote ratio has always been around 60%-70% pan-Dem to 30%-40% pro-Beijing, so there wasn't much Beijing could do through creative gerrymandering.

Wiki explanation of the system here. This will be hardest for Americans like me to wrap our heads around.

1. Quota is determined by the number of seats. 10 seats = 1/10 or 10% for quota.
2. Lists are ranked by the percentage of vote they get. Seats are assigned to them based on how many whole multiples of the quota they get. So for a 10% quota, if a list gets 23%, they get 2 automatic seats.
3. After that, those with the highest remainders (fractions of 10%) get seats in order until they are filled. Our list above gets a 3rd seat if there are seats left for 3% remainder (23%-20% for 2x quota.)

How you rank on the list is very important, first person on the list has a better chance to make it than the third.

The predictable happened after that. Once proportional representation is introduced, Duverger's Law disappears, so multiple parties compete. Pan-Democrats split into disparate, somewhat friendly and loosely organized camps, but the pro-Beijing forces largely stuck together to form the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress for Hong Kong, or the DAB. (That's a mouthful, but party names are snappier in Chinese.)

The pro-Beijing forces are naturally better organized because they have the shadowy hand of the Chinese Communist Party pulling the strings.

The geographic constituencies, which are 35 of the 70 seats, are "proportional", but they range in size from 5 to 9 seats. Proportionality breaks down when you get to small sizes like that, because votes -> seats math runs into trouble with such huge steps between seat thresholds. 100 seats delivers a more proportional outcome than 5 seats.

So in Kowloon East and Kowloon West, both 5 seat constituencies, the threshold for a party list to win two seats is staggeringly high, one party would need at least 20% plus an adequate remainder to take two of the 5 seats. Those constituencies are de facto block vote. Top 5 lists get one seat.

The other thee constituencies are larger: Hong Kong Island (7), New Territories East (9), and New Territories West (9).

There are two strategies you can employ to try to win two seats for one list if your polling tells you that it's possible based on the strength of your support. You can either:

A. Split your list into two lists. You hope that both of those lists gather enough votes to snag one seat, but you run the risk of your vote being split and none of them wins seats. Ideally, both lists would finish a few percentage points under quota, both would get remainder seats.

B. Run one list. If your support is strong enough that you're thinking about two seats, you're guaranteed to get at least one seat with this arrangement, but the second person on your list is at greater risk. You either need another full quota seat (unlikely with such small constituencies) or you hope that the other lists finish so that you pick up the second remainder seat.

The total amount of support your party needs to win seats can be lower in option A. However, option B practically guarantees you at least one seat, whereas option A might shut you out.

The two largest pro-Democracy parties have split in their approaches.

The Democratic Party, the older of the two, has chosen Option A. They are running two lists in New Territories West and three lists in New Territories East. This requires extremely careful balancing of your supporters to minimize wasted votes--if one list gets too many more votes than they need to win one seat, you run the risk of the other list losing! Particularly risky in NT East, where one of their tickets is headed by Emily Lau, a much more well-known and well-loved quantity than the figures heading the other two lists.

It worked for them in 2004 in NT West, where one Democratic Party List received 62,500 votes, and the other Democratic Party List got 62,342. Almost perfect!

The Civic Party has chosen Option B, placing well-known leaders Tanya Chan and Audrey Eu second on their lists on Hong Kong Island and New Territories West. They picked up two seats in 2008 on Hong Kong Island and are hoping to repeat the feat. The Democratic Party tried a similar approach in 08, placing party chair Yeung Sum second on the list, but they ran right into the Civic Party train and only got one seat.

The CP is newer, so this approach might work better for them. They might be less able to split their votes down the middle to get the lesser-known lists elected, and too many wasted votes will pile into the primary list.

With constituencies so small, it's possible that voting for your preferred pan-Democratic party could end up being a wasted vote (since they could be so far over quota), and it might cost another pan-Democratic party a seat. Meanwhile, since the pro-Beijing side is much more unified, they might be able to better allocate votes between themselves and the smaller United Front parties (the FTU, the Liberal Party).

It's a risk that I think is understudied in proportional representation systems. You have what would ordinarily be a very cleanly aligned two-party system like in Taiwan (where the KMT and DPP are diametrically opposed on Taiwanese independence) turned into a chaotic multi-party system. But when the two parties are so clearly sorted into two camps, is a multi-party system necessarily better, especially when one side is better coordinated?

And this doesn't even get near the Functional Constituencies, those are total shams and ensure Beijing has control of LegCo regardless.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:58 AM on September 8, 2012 [13 favorites]

In other news: U.S. Rule Puts Confucius Schools Under Spotlight
posted by homunculus at 3:00 PM on September 8, 2012

The House News has a tracking poll aggregation (in Chinese). Selected bits of note are below.

Row at top is their seat projection.
22 pan-Dem, 10 toss-up, 22 pro-Beijing, 16 uncontested pro-Beijing.
23 seats for a 1/3 ability to veto Basic Law changes, the basic target for the pan-Dems. 35 for a majority.

Kowloon East (九龍東): 2 pan-Dem, 2 pro-Beijing, 1 toss-up
Kowloon West (九龍西): 3 pan-Dem, 2 pro-Beijing, 0 toss-up
Hong Kong Island (香港島): 3 pan-Dem, 3 pro-Beijing, 1 toss-up
New Territories East (新界東): 3 pan-Dem, 4 pro-Beijing, 2 toss-up
New Territories West (新界西): 5 pan-Dem, 3 pro-Beijing, 1 toss-up

District Council Functional Constituency Super-Seats (超級區議會組別): 3 pan-Dem, 2 pro-Beijing, 0 toss-up

Functional Constituencies (功能組別): 3 pan-Dem, 22 pro-Beijing, 5 toss-up

Polls close at 10:30PM Hong Kong time.

(Yes, 10:30PM! Heaven forfend that the hours are long enough that it is easy to vote. Take the hint, most states.)
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:39 PM on September 8, 2012

If anyone is still reading this, there has been a bit of victory!
posted by Yellow at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2012

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