As an alumnus and Honorary Clinical Assistant Professor of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), I must comment on the HKU students union’s open letter to the university and its Vice-Chancellor Professor Xiang Zhang.
With regard to the student body’s request for “more transparency” on the university’s national security courses, I want to emphasize that protecting national security is a must and duty of all citizens in any country.
Toward the end of the Qing dynasty, China was deeply divided and weakened. Without the notion of national security and the related legal means, the country suffered at the hands of foreign aggressors.
The 19th-century China was tarnished by internal commotion and strife, foreign invasions and coer-cion, severe economic disruption and immense suffering on the part of the people, whatever their political beliefs.
Does any of this sound familiar?
And need I remind these students it was the abhorrently anti-social, violent activities in 2019 that forced Beijing to promulgate the National Security Law (NSL) for Hong Kong?
Only with a security law in place, can a country’s economy operate smoothly and its citizens live their lives as they wish, without fear of foreign intervention or interruption. The NSL provides clarity in matters relating to our Basic Law and as such, national security education should be a requisite for every classroom.
Without a national security law, as we have witnessed before, there will be chaos that challenges the “one country, two systems” principle. All of these things are interconnected, and one cannot exist without the other. The NSL is there to protect us and national interests, it is a prerequisite and not a selective as some make it out to be
Furthermore, students must appreciate that since their tertiary education is heavily funded by the public — an amount totaling HK$1 million per student — society has every right to expect suitable use of public funds. The return on this public investment should come in the form of university graduates serving the public and protecting the interests of our country.
Therefore, national security education is an integral part of protecting our future interests, including those of the students.
The management of a university is a matter for the university, not the students. If the school’s man-agement wishes to include national security education in the curriculum, it is their prerogative to do so. It is just as well that the matter has now drawn enough attention, students in the future can no longer say that they don’t know this requirement.
The second point of the letter concerns Vice-Chancellor Zhang and the university as the student body claims that they have surrendered autonomy to “the wolves of the tyranny” and called the university’s conduct “humiliating to the educated class”.
It should be remembered what the initial purpose of setting up HKU was. When HKU was established in 1911, Sir Frederick Lugard (then Governor of Hong Kong) said the university was founded as a British university in Hong Kong for China, and it was charged with helping the new China progress into the future.
Today, HKU is the oldest tertiary institution in Hong Kong and has gained prominence in interna-tional rankings. While the HKSAR is known internationally as a financial center, it also has outstanding education across the board. Therefore, it is the university’s responsibility to sustain our reputation and lead also by example.
If the student body likens “educational autonomy” to the Hong Kong independence movement, they need to seriously rethink their demands.
President Xi Jinping drew a line in the sand by saying that “any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty is an act that crosses the line and is absolutely not permissible in Hong Kong”.
HKU’s Students Union ought to tread carefully and should stop pushing their luck.
The People’s Daily published an editorial that called for immediate discipline of the students union, as well as the eradication of “thugs” hiding within the university.
They went on to say that these unruly students are not only smearing our national security education, but damaging the tenet of “one country, two systems” and consequently wreaking constitutional havoc on Hong Kong.
On to the final point in the letter — “Gone the Sapientia et Virtus, Shame to All Our Ancestors” — which simply were “arguments” against patriotic education in China.
My simple reaction is that the students and their union must do everything they can to better understand Hong Kong, its constitutional status and political system, and generally our motherland. Rather than listening to hearsay, they need to make an effort to better understand the current political, economic and social situations in China.
“One country, two systems” is still the tenet that Hong Kong lives by, so they need to understand the importance of unity and its relation to “one country”. And remember without “one country”, there would be no “two systems”.
Without a national security law, as we have witnessed before, there will be chaos that challenges the “one country, two systems” principle. All of these things are interconnected, and one cannot exist without the other.
The NSL is there to protect us and national interests, it is a prerequisite and not a selective as some make it out to be.
If any HKU students object to the design of the university’s curriculum, they can simply find another university or study abroad. Hong Kong doesn’t need any more radicalism or unpatriotic behavior.
HKU is a public body, so it must be a university that exists to not only educate but ultimately serve the public.
Zhang and the university management are not “submitting to tyranny or acting as a ‘puppet of the Education Bureau’.” The whole of Hong Kong is simply righting the wrongs of our current education system and trying to bring up a new cohort of proud and patriotic students who understand the ins and outs of Hong Kong and their country.
As a public university, HKU like other public institutions has a responsibility to pass the torch on to our youngsters and future teachers, politicians, civil servants, and such.
Change will ultimately come from our youth, so we need to start there and teach them right from wrong.
The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a local think tank.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS