Hong Kong U-Turn National Education Policy


Click here to watch 15-yr old student leader leading the protest against National Education.

When I read about 15 yr old Joshua Wong; student leader of Scholarism – a student group – protesting with thousands of other Hong Kong students and residents outside their government HQ, many questions came to my mind. I could not help comparing Hong Kong to Singapore and their students with our students.

Hong Kong and Singapore have got many similarities in size, population and culture. We are both Asian based societies formerly under British rule. We inherited the rule of law from the British. Many of our institutions and governance are also inherited from the British. We became self-government in 1959 and then independence in 1965. Whereas, Hong Kong returned back to the China only in 1997. We are so similar and yet so different in so many ways.

I notice that the citizens in Hong Kong would protest and demonstrate every now and then against the government policy or over some events. June 4th will always see peaceful demonstration by Hong Kong residents lighting candles keeping vigil to commemorate those killed in Tiananmen Sq. What about the protest against the GST hike which was aborted; among other protests. On every July 1st – the handover date in 1997, there will also be mass protest demanding for universal suffrage. We know that Hong Kong citizens do not directly elect their own Chief Executive and half of the MPs in parliament or council are nominated by the Chinese communist. Hong Kong is still under Special Administrative Zone of China where they are only allowed autonomy for most things except defence and foreign affairs. One country with two systems is how they describe it.

Politically, Hong Kong citizens do not have much voting rights. Unlike us, Hong Kongers do not elect their own MPs directly to represent them. But if they do not have voting rights, then why they still have 4 main political parties – some pro Beijng and others not. In Hong Kong, I was told that there are more than 30 major and minor newspapers in Chinese or English. The newspapers there are free to report whatever they want without any restrictions. Even their TV and radio stations are full of live commentary with debate on social issues and current affairs. If you read about Hong Kong news often, the people there are frequently seen marching on the streets shouting slogans and protesting against some government policy. For example when the Hong Kong government wanted to tear down Queen Pier, so many took to the streets to protest.

I am no expert on Hong Kong’s complicating social and political systems. But I do know that they could suka suka protest and march on the streets if they are not happy with government policy. Mind you, their protests are very orderly and peaceful with no riots. No damages to public property. No deaths or bombs at all. Their peaceful protests and demonstrations are as seen in those 1st world countries, unlike those in middle eastern countries, Afghanistan or Pakistan where bloodshed often followed.

In view of the above facts, could we say that there is no democracy or freedom of expression in Hong Kong? Some of you may say ‘yes and no.’ In short, it’s quite an interesting phenomenon happening in Hong Kong. Even that 15-year old student could speak so bravely and eloquently to reporters when interviewed by so many TV and radio stations. He is leading a protest against the government introducing compulsory National Education (NE) in all schools. They feel that it’s a form of “brain-washing” by the Hong Kong government acting under instruction from Beijing. The students detested such programme. The reason given by the student leader, Joshua Wong is that NE discourages critical thinking and it glorifies a certain political party which they do not blindly adhere to.

Now if we compare our students to Hong Kong students, the differences are quite obvious. I do not think our students would be that daring and bold like their counterparts in Hong Kong. There was a time in our early years of history when Chinese stream students protested against the government. It was never those English educated students. That period of our brief history is well documented if you care to read up.

We also have GE every 5 years to choose our representatives from different parties to form the government. We also choose our president once every 6 years. In fact, all our leaders in government are chosen by us. We do have universal suffrage. Why then we are still not satisfied with our system? We are still complaining about lack of freedom and rights of protest. We are telling the whole world that we have limited democracy.

I feel that maybe the answer lies in our government having strict controls on our press and MSM. I don’t understand why we still have the ISA when Hong Kong never had it even though both were formerly under British colonial rule. Is the ISA – Malaysia already repealed it recently – curbing the freedom and rights of expression of ordinary law abiding citizens? We can’t just go to the street and march in protest unlike in Hong Kong or those advanced first world countries. We have already reached the living standards of first world standard, yet socially and politically we are still in the 60s or 70s! As citizens of this country unlike in Hong Kong, we really can’t do much if we really feel that the langgar policy is unfair or not right! There is no say on how our lives ought to be governed except once in every 5 yrs. Wonder no more, why opposition political rallies attract throngs of listeners whereas the incumbents so miserably few spectators!

Does it mean that allowing peaceful demonstrations and orderly protests will lead to chaos, social upheavals or anarchy? Just look at Hong Kong. Did it collapse and fall apart? Need I say more? The government need to closely examine this aspect if it wants to earn the citizens’ respect and trust. Hopefully, this government will change cuz I believe most of them – 61% of citizens at least, do not want to change this government. They want the government to change – that is the difference.

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About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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30 Responses to Hong Kong U-Turn National Education Policy

  1. railwayman68 says:

    Well said. ISA should be abolished & the pap government must realized that we are a matured society in the new century, unlike those chaotic 60s & 70s where there is a need to contain the situation then.

    With better education, citizens are more mature and suppressing us the freedom of speech by controlling the media, shows the kiasuism & inmature of the pap government.

    Minister Khaw said: I hear you, singles. ( regards to singles eligibility/equal rights to apply new hdb flat as a Singaporean who pay taxes as well as married couples)

    I hope he listen instead of hear because any able body with ear can also hear(NATO). Only through listening( with understanding & action ) can win the heart of the people.

  2. KC says:

    In a matter of years, Hong Kong people have transitioned from apolitical to political. Even 15-year-olds are articulate. If we study the triggers for that transition, the background, the push/pull factors etc, then we can replicate this people power anywhere. If you are hoping this will happen to Singapore, dream on, most of us who gripe about the PAP continue to vote for PAP and how many of us have the balls to hold mass protests?

  3. Let’s say our govt allows street protests. So what? Our people are so engrossed with their own pursuits. They have no causes, no ideals. What is there to fight for?

    • Toothfully,
      Our ppl only keen in raking in more money in the stock exchange and property mkt. Other than money and profits, the rest are not important.

  4. The says:

    /// Hopefully, this government will change cuz I believe most of them – 60.1% of citizens at least, do not want to change this government. They want the government to change – that is the difference. ///

    Spot on!

    The problem is, come every election, they will bundle the issues. The minute they are back in government, they will say they have the mandate to do anything. If you voted for PAP, that means you want to retain the ISA. If you voted for the PAP, that means you approve of the sky-high indecent ministerial salaries. If you voted the PAP, that means you want to bring in immigrants by the millions.

    You want change? Good – I will keep the millions and you can have the loose change.

    • Jill says:

      PAP to change? Time their heads come out of the sands.

      GT, link to Hongkong’s Article’s 23 and you will get an idea of the similar ISA law they have been battling. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_Basic_Law_Article_23

      • The says:

        Don’t have to look back to 2003 to see HK democracy at work. This very thread is about how the HK people forced the HK government to discard the proposed National Education (read propaganda, indoctrination,brain washing) thingy, which we still have.

  5. lawless says:

    Public protests can, provided they are initiated by PAP approved organisations. Anti-PAP elements not allowed to protest, peaceful or otherwise.

  6. Xavier says:


    You’ve always write with good sense and I am a fan of your blog.

    You are a former Police officer. You should be aware that it simply needs one spark to ignite within a group to turn “peaceful protest” into a riot.

    The recent Bersih “peaceful protest” has caused much disturbance and loss of income for business owners in the area. This is what Malaysiakini and those freedom fighter blogs in Malaysia did not highlight.

    In Europe, the transport workers and strike regularly to fight for their rights. As a result, the regular folks and companies dependant on these transportation suffer. On a wider scale, perishable food suffers, supermarket suffers. These indirectly caused undesirable economical consequences.

    I hope you are not as myopic as some opposition political party.

    • Hi Xavier,
      Thank you for being my fan. I am rational and a thinking person. I totally concur with your views. I’m not disputing what you are saying here. Let me clarify that I’m not saying that we shld go all out to emulate those that you mention. What I’m saying that there shld be more opening up in a matured society. There shld be more newspapers. Not at this moment where all are controlled by SPH always with an ex-cabinet minister as Chairman. Why are our citizens so cynical of our MSM?
      Talking about strikes. We never had any at all. Does it mean that we got no labour issue at all? All swept under the carpet? I know what I’m saying. I believe myself and many Singaporeans do not want to see our country in anarchy. I did mention that 61% want to see the govt changes with the times and not change this govt. I hope you see the big difference. Let’s hope they realise this fact. It’s moving very fast since last GE. Barely over a year, there is rapid urgency clamoring for more space and leeway for self expressions and involvement on national policies affecting their livelihood and future. Who wants to play around with our own future when we have a home and family here?

      • Xavior says:

        I agree we should be more receptive to different views. I agree with you that there should be more newspapers for consumers to choose from. As of now, bloggers fill the gap. But bloggers’ news are often not 1st hand, especially when it comes to national issues.

    • The says:

      The annual F1 race has caused much disturbance and loss of income for business owners in the area. This is what Singapore MSM and those involved in bringing the races here did not highlight.

      The fact is that HK had had many such demonstrations year in and year out, and there were no sparks. OTOH, the UMNO goons did send in a few agent provocateurs to disrupt the peaceful rallies and tried their best to provide the sparks.

      • Riots says:

        Every year, China is plagued by tens of thousands of “mass incidents” – a catch-all phrase that the government uses to describe riots, protests …
        BBC News – Wukan unrest: Why do Chinese farmers riot?

      • Xavier says:

        So you are willing to take RISK for any riots to occur? Who are you to decide that everyone is as rational as you to be peaceful?

        Are you willing to bear the responsibility?

        • lawless says:

          Riots can occur at the Speakers’ Corner or at election rallies or at forums orgainised by anti-establishment bloggers (or even football matches). Why is the PAP risking riots by allowing these activities?

  7. Xavier says:

    I wish to add a point or two about ISA.

    Do you support the notion of terrorist groups forming legitimate Political parties to partake in politics? Some legitimate political parties in some countries have their own military / guerrilla warfare wings.

    I know it sounds remote and even absurb but in this context, I stress I am not implying political parties in Singapore are terrorists.

    I am trying to frame a context here, perhaps to show the usefulness of ISA. I personally support a catch-all clause to keep us safe and united.

    Do you read the fine prints when you participate in lucky draws? Under its Terms & Conditions, there will always be 1 clause which says “The management reserves the rights to change T&C…blah”. Is anyone complaining about this catch-all clause?

    Btw, you know that Malaysian civil rights groups are still unhappy that ISA was abolished? They are now arguing that the new act was “worded too widely”, which still gives the incumbent wide powers.

    I always believe that if PAP wants to get rid of any political opponents, they don’t need to use ISA. They can use any other laws under their disposal (independent judiciary? Hmmmm…). By that argument, all laws should be abolished.

    • The says:

      ///I always believe that if PAP wants to get rid of any political opponents, they don’t need to use ISA. They can use any other laws under their disposal (independent judiciary? Hmmmm…). By that argument, all laws should be abolished.///

      That is true if the victims broke a law here or there. But if they have not broken any laws, then the ISA will come in handy – no need to prove anything in a court of law.

    • ISA in spirit is desirable but if it’s abused then it’s different thing altogether. The British crafted it with good intentions against communists and insurgents which no civilized society will support. I’m referring to violent overthrow of an elected legitimate govt.

    • NO-ISA says:

      “…I personally support a catch-all clause to keep us safe and united…..”

      how can we be sure that the one in power will not abuse the ISA and use in against anyone and everyone who are not on his side even though those arrested have done no wrong other than disagreeing with the one in power? Is it alright to catch and punish 10000 just because one of the guilty person is suspected to be in this group of 10000?

      • Joey Foo says:

        If the one in power abuses the ISA, there will be a public backlash. If there is an attempt to silence those who are against the initial application of the ISA, there will be a bigger backlash. In a sense, the public and their awareness of such cases mean that any unreasonable use of the ISA will backfire badly.

        Of course, if there is a replacement law created for the ISA, and such law is drafted in such a way as to continue to allow authorities to invoke the law in the public’s interest while protecting it from unreasonable use, then perhaps it may be worth considering. The current ISA can be invoked without any concrete evidence, and allows detention without trial, which has been useful for multiple cases in the past.

        I am not that involved in politics, so I may be missing some details, but for myself, I will be in favour of retaining the ISA, unless the Workers’ Party or any one else can construct a draft for a replacement for an ISA which I can view for and decide for myself if I still stick to my current opinion.

        (To people who like to disagree with me: I said I am in favour of retaining it for now. I have never disapproved of anyone drafting a replacement for the ISA)

  8. lawless says:

    If any political group is carrying out terrorist activities or inciting violence, the AG can charge them in court and our very eminent judges can convict them in accordance with the relevant laws. U mean to say pple like WongKanSeng and Lee Hsien Loong are smarter than the AG and the CJ when it comes to administering justice and putting crooks behind bars?

    How come the PAP allow protests to be held at Hong Lim Park? They not afraid one spark ignite the protesters to riot at nearby Raffles Place meh? PAP so myopic.

    • Not AG or CJ. There is a dept staffed with professionals whose job is to sniff out and drag them to Timbuktu without seeing the daylight, let alone charge them in a civil court. No need for that. Let the professionals do the job.

  9. lawless says:

    If the ISA is repealed, it would still be the job of these professionals at this “secret” Tanglin dept to sniff out the terrorists and gather evidence of their terrorists’ activites. Then, it is over to the legally-qualified AG to charge the terrorists and for the legally-qualified judge to convict them in open court. Someone like WongKanSeng, TeoCheeHean or LeeHsienLoong who have no legal training whatsoever, are not qualified to determine whether the accused person is gulity of terrorist activities or not.

    • Xavior says:

      I don’t know where you draw your conclusions from.

      A Supreme court judge heads the closed-door court proceedings for ISA cases.


      “4.Each OD and RO must be reviewed by an independent Advisory Board which is headed by a Supreme Court Judge and two qualified citizens appointed by the President.”

      • lawless says:

        I draw my conclusions from looking at section 13(2) and 13A of the ISA – and not from misinterpreting an entry in wikipedia. The power of the advisory board to review the case refers only to the power to examine the case and nothing more. Section 13(2) and 13A read as follows:
        (2) The advisory board shall on completing every review under subsection (1) forthwith submit to the Minister a written report of every such review, and may make therein such recommendations as it thinks fit.

        13A. Where any advisory board recommends the release of any person under section 12 or 13, the person shall not be detained or further detained without the President’s concurrence under Article 151(4) of the Constitution. ”

        The advisory board is not a “closed-door court proceeding” which decides the fate of the accused person, unlike a normal court hearing. All the advisory board is empowered to do under section 13 and 13A of the ISA is to, after reviewing the case, make recommendations to the Home Affairs Minister and the President. Under section 13A, if the President concurs with the Minister, then the accused person would continue to be detained even if the advisory board recommends his release. In short, the final decision to detain lies in the Minister and the President, and not in the hands of the professionals, i.e. the AG and the High Court judges and certainly not the advisory board whose limited role is to review and make recommendations only.

        The smaller side issue with the advisory board is of course the fact that it is made up of 1 qualified judge and 2 other members. The other 2 members can easily overrule the qualified judge .

  10. Sgcynic says:

    Forget about the ISA. Even a one man protest constitutes an illegal assembly. There are ‘proper channels’ to reflect our views, like the national CONversation.

  11. WeAreUnique says:

    We are not Hong Kong, we are not Europe. We need our own Singaporean solution. If I walk down Orchard Road, I won’t want to face protesters, peaceful or otherwise, leaving out the issue of freedom to express one’s view publicly.

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