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Thursday, April 14, 2022, 23:47
Now’s time to upgrade city’s national security education
By Kevin Lau
Thursday, April 14, 2022, 23:47 By Kevin Lau

Hong Kong has come to a point where we find ourselves standing at a critical crossroads after suffering from the bitter 2019-20 social unrest that divided society, and the exhaustive COVID-19 pandemic that paralyzed the public health system, as the geopolitical landscape is changing faster than ever with international relationships becoming increasingly complicated. Worse, some Western countries led by the US and UK are hostile toward Hong Kong for geopolitical reasons.

Under such circumstances, safeguarding national security is crucial to Hong Kong maintaining long-term stability and prosperity. To better safeguard national security, there is a need to upgrade its education to the next level, which has to be done on two fronts: in schools and addressing the general public respectively.

First, let’s look at the schools. It is a pleasant relief to see that some groundwork has already been done in schools. In February 2021, the Education Bureau issued guidelines to schools, announcing the implementation mode of national security education in school curricula as well as the learning and teaching resources that are meant to assist schools to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment and promote national security education.

There should not be any excuse for Hong Kong people to say that we still do not know much about national security or national identity, 25 years after reunification

It is more than reasonable to implement national security education in schools because education is always going to define and decide what students will become when they graduate. Therefore, national security and national education are inseparable. They are like the two sides of the same coin. The Education Bureau is doing the right job to update school curricula, develop learning and teaching resources, train teachers, and organize student activities such as mainland exchanges and sister-school programs.

Moral and civic education topics and life-wide learning activities related to national security help to guide students to understand their motherland, cultivate national concepts, and provide them with a correct understanding of Hong Kong’s constitutional order under the nation’s Constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law. It is fully justified that students learn the roles and obligations of citizens. That certainly is going to nurture them to become good adults who understand the concept of a nation, respect the rule of law, and know the obligation to safeguard the security of their own country.

Every country is doing the same things when it comes to national security and national education. My domestic helper told me they sing their national anthem at school every day. In schools around the world, students are taught national concepts, national identity, national history and customs, as well as an awareness and sense of responsibility to safeguard national security. All governments are willing to put in resources turning their students into good citizens who respect the rule of law and are willing to defend their country when crises occur.

So it is absolutely ridiculous that someone would ever question the necessity of implementing national security education in Hong Kong schools. If it is something done all over the world, Hong Kong will oddly stand out if we refuse to do the same. That is something so plain to see.

Now let’s turn to the teaching side. The government does see the need to train teachers so as to better equip them to teach issues related to national security and has, starting from the 2020-21 school year, put forward more specific requirements to train new teachers, in-service teachers, as well as teachers subject to promotion. The core training covers China’s Constitution, Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and national security education under which the objective is to enhance teachers’ understanding of “one country, two systems”, national security and national development.

For newly recruited teachers and teachers to be promoted, they will be asked to attend mainland study groups that allow them to understand the development of education in the mainland and its achievements. Both the formal training and the personal experience the teachers gain make them better teachers to inspire their students to think about China’s development as well as the opportunities and contributions Hong Kong can make in the process.

Needless to say, teachers play the most crucial role in shaping and formulating their students. Therefore, there is a real need to improve our schoolteachers so they can be more effective in instructing students regarding national security education. The Education Bureau should explore opportunities like working with experts and national institutions on the Chinese mainland to strengthen teacher trainings on the Constitution, the Basic Law and national security.

Seminars and lectures in teachers’ leisure should be organized as a core part of teachers’ professional training to keep them constantly updated on the subject. Better teachers produce better students. The government will no doubt see the justification of adding resources into an effort to enhance teachers and turn them into expert national security mentors for their students.

While teaching students is an easier matter to manage given that they regularly attend schools, promoting national security education among the general public turns out to be a far more challenging assignment, taking into account the extremely low probability and impracticality to group them under any standard formats for any forms of instruction on national security education to take place. The objective of educating the general public is to raise its awareness, so the designation of a day for the particular issue of national security is a feasible approach.

While presiding over the first meeting of the National Security Commission in April 2014, President Xi Jinping raised the idea and introduced his holistic thinking on national security for the first time. One of the results is that April 15 has been designated as the National Security Education Day each year, with the clear purpose to raise public awareness of national security, create a positive atmosphere of safeguarding it, enhance the capacity to fend off national security risks, deepen public understanding of the Constitution, the Basic Law and national security, and foster a sense of national identity.

All modern societies are made up of people of different backgrounds, including but not limited to ethnicity and language. Governments around the world realize the need to create a national identity that helps to unite all citizens into a single nation. Unless governments manage to instill in their people a set of attitudes that define who the person is and to which country he or she belongs, the country will remain a meaningless unit that is nothing more than a mere name. National identity unites and builds a bond among all members of the society, and so it plays a key role in uniting all people into a single meaningful group.

Hong Kong used to be a British colony, so the need to unite all citizens into a single group is particularly pressing given the territory’s diverse society. No one has pointed out the danger of not creating a national identity better than Abraham Lincoln in a speech of his in 1858, in which he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Hong Kong needs not only to stand, but also to recover from both the recent social unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic that have caused considerable damage to the city. We must stand before we can recover and grow again. To a large extent, national security is like a type of protection that safeguards us as we go through this process of recovery and growth as national security means a status where the political system, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, people’s welfare, economic and social development, and other major interests of the state are not subject to any danger or threat internally or externally. That means a lot to us, doesn’t it? Hong Kong needs national security as much as our home needs its gates and locks. Pure and simple.

Hong Kong excels as a busy economic and financial center. Honestly speaking, it seems there are far more people in Hong Kong who know the Hang Seng Index and stock numbers than their responsibilities as residents of Hong Kong. To safeguard the sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of the motherland is the common responsibility of all the people of China, including the people of Hong Kong. There should not be any excuse for Hong Kong people to say that we still do not know much about national security or national identity, 25 years after reunification.

The author, a radiologist, is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Coalition and a council member of the Chinese Young Entrepreneurs Association.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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