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Tuesday, May 05, 2020, 10:28
Disinformation poisoning minds of young generation
By Ho Lok-sang
Tuesday, May 05, 2020, 10:28 By Ho Lok-sang

There is now a movement in Hong Kong pushing the legislation of Article 23 in the Basic Law. This is the national security law that Hong Kong was committed to “enact on its own”. The need for national security is universal, and it is in the name of national security that Huawei, the world’s leader in 5G technology, and other Chinese IT firms on the Chinese mainland are being sanctioned by the United States, even though no evidence has ever been presented. Since it is on the foundation of the Basic Law that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was founded, it is the duty of every legislator to see to the enactment of Article 23. The central government at the time trusted that Hong Kong would dutifully complete this task. Moreover, legislators can work together to ensure that the final law enacted will address Hong Kong people’s legitimate concerns.

Unfortunately, almost 23 years have passed, and we still have not completed this task, and this juncture happens to be the historic moment when China’s national security concerns are most acute. 

We have now a sizeable minority of Hong Kong people who want Hong Kong to be separated from China. There was even the farce when a group in Ma On Shan that declared the formation of an “interim Hong Kong government”. Since 2013, we have gone through an extended “Occupy Central” period, during which Hong Kong people were deprived of the use of main thoroughfares in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, and Mong Kok. We have seen riots erupting all over Hong Kong, with traffic lights, roadside railings, and public as well as private property vandalized. We have seen young people desecrating the national flag. We have seen innocent people attacked and even set on fire for voicing their disagreement with rioters. Many businesses have suffered and unemployment was rising even before the COVID-19 outbreak.

More recently, we are seeing an escalation. Hong Kong police found 14 kilograms of dangerous substances and an improvised bomb on Saturday at an abandoned school in eastern Kowloon. This is the 11th bomb case the police force has handled since anti-government demonstrations broke out last summer. 

I hope Hong Kong will establish a fully accredited organization responsible for fact-checking. Scientific protocols, independence, and transparent processes will ensure its credibility. It should debunk all the disinformation that is contaminating our young minds

Outside of Hong Kong, many politicians have been trying to suppress China’s rise as an economic power. Not only have they been completely silent about the violence perpetuated by the rioters, the US Congress has also passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”, threatening to sanction officials of Hong Kong and the mainland who are deemed to violate human rights and also to change the current status of Hong Kong-American trading relationship.

In the face of such significant threats to public safety and to national security, clearly, the need for enactment of Article 23 has never been greater.

However, notwithstanding widespread support for the enactment of Article 23, those who oppose are also a big number. Objection to the national security law is especially prevalent among youngsters in Hong Kong. This begs the question: Why are there so many Hong Kong youngsters up in arms against their motherland?

To be fair, China today is so much better and so much freer than at any other time in its recent history. China has, accordingly to the World Bank, lifted more than 850 million people from poverty since 1979. China has vastly improved its social safety net, vastly raised its healthcare spending and improved the accessibility of healthcare. China is the world’s leader in reforestation and green energy. Even though China was the first to suffer the onslaught of COVID-19, it has succeeded in containing the spread of the epidemic. In contrast, many Western nations, notwithstanding having so much lead time to deal with the pandemic, have squandered precious time and have allowed the pandemic to spread, resulting in infections and fatalities that greatly exceeded China’s.

In recent weeks, I have begun to understand why. There is so much disinformation propagated to our youngsters, and many of our teachers spread this disinformation in the name of education. This is a scandal. A primary school teacher taught his students that Britain waged the Opium War against China because it wanted to stop the pervasive use of opium in China! A friend also sent me a link to an article that told of how the author was shocked upon listening to the briefing by a guide in the Hong Kong History Museum who used the term “military action” instead of “invasion” to describe the Opium War and who failed to describe the Treaty of Nanking as an unequal treaty, and rather referred to it as “a treaty to establish peaceful relationships”.

It is important that disinformation and miseducation stop. With young minds contaminated by disinformation and miseducation, it will be impossible for our younger generation to integrate with the motherland and to contribute to the betterment of themselves and their progeny.

I hope Hong Kong will establish a fully accredited organization responsible for fact-checking. Scientific protocols, independence, and transparent processes will ensure its credibility. It should debunk all the disinformation that is contaminating our young minds. Educational institutions, teachers, and the press must be held accountable for spreading disinformation.

The author is a senior research fellow at Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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