Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Cadre of Hong Kong Kids Unrolls Red Carpet for China Series: Handing over Hong Kong

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Cadre of Hong Kong Kids Unrolls Red Carpet for China Series: Handing over Hong Kong

Article excerpt

The hallways at Pui Kiu Middle School echo with the bustle of students changing classes, all dressed alike in neat blue-and-gray uniforms. It is a normal scene in Hong Kong's better-off fee-charging schools.

The only thing out of the ordinary is the display of old black-and-white photographs on the wall of the student union. They commemorate the May 4 Movement of 1919, one of the turning points in modern Chinese history.

"There is not much difference between our school and {government} schools, but here the students are freer to talk about their own country," says vice principal Anna Yip.

The country she is referring to is China - not Britain, whose rule over Hong Kong ends next year.

Since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, there has always been a small but close-knit "patriotic" or pro-Beijing community in Hong Kong. It had its own schools, like Pui Kiu, its own newspapers, and even its own department stores.

With the impending handover of Hong Kong to China only a year away, the left-wing community is beginning to become part of the mainstream.

Pui Kiu principal Tsang Yok-sing probably spends more of his time these days at the headquarters of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong than at the school. As head of the alliance, the largest pro-Beijing political group, Mr. Tsang ran unsuccessfully for the territorial legislature in last September's elections, the freest in Hong Kong's history. He is often the media's first choice in seeking sound bites on China's position on the territory or its future after the transition date, July 1, 1997. He writes frequent opinion pieces in the mainstream press.

One of his favorite topics is the failure of schools to inculcate a feeling of patriotism for China. Of course, anything relating to politics has often been a touchy subject. For people in Hong Kong, many of them refugees from the civil war, it meant either supporting the defeated Taiwan nationalists or the Communists. "Most people simply had nothing to do with either," Tsang says.

When Tsang was in school in the 1960s, most instruction in Chinese history stopped with the Opium War in 1861, when Britain took control of Hong Kong Island. Civics lessons were simple exercises in how to obey the law or how the post office functioned. All of the instruction was in English and usually taught from a colonial perspective.

Tsang's younger brother, Tak-sing, wrote a pamphlet calling for more balanced history lessons, which he distributed around the playground. …

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