CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Laying the foundations for the 2047 integration of Hong Kong

HONG KONG (SE): Something may have been rotten in the state of Denmark in the era of the English bard, William Shakespeare, but school supervisor, Father Vittorio Grioni, believes that in today’s world a suspicious aroma is wafting around the National and Moral Education Curriculum, which debuted in some primary schools in Hong Kong on September 3.

Father Grioni says that apart from questioning the content of the curriculum itself, the really critical question is the timing, “Why now?”

He asks why after 15 years of one country two systems is there a sudden rush to impose National and Moral Education on the population of Hong Kong.

He believes that the answer can be found in the projected demographics of the 2047 shelf life of the current one country two systems agreement, as children of primary school age today will then be the dominant middle class in Hong Kong business, political and community life, so it is important that they are well prepared to become part of China proper.

“Complete unification of the country rests on two important factors,” he told the Sunday Examiner, “the creation of a public consensus on the fundamental dogmas of Chinese government ideology and the employment of suitable means to enforce and control the ideological system itself.”

The Italian priest from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions says he believes that the determination of the authorities to introduce the subject at any cost is a clear indication that Beijing intends to initiate a process of theoretical and practical integration of Hong Kong into the political, social and cultural system of the mainland.

Father Grioni explains that this involves not only intellectual input, but social participation in what is commonly referred to in Hong Kong as propaganda activities, or as a propaganda officer for a local government department in Shanghai explained once, “In the west you call this public relations.”

However, Father Grioni says that the communist approach includes summer camps and training activities, media reports, classroom work, conferences, civic functions, official visits, anniversary celebrations and historical excursions, which corroborate, substantiate and sustain concepts of racial identity, unity, cooperation, patriotism and most of all, nationalism.

He says that we know from mainland media that there is an intricate connection between ideology and law enforcement, so communist beliefs must be firmly engrained in the population in order to integrate the various functions of society.

These are the two pillars on which communist rule relies to be constructive. However, they need to be backed up by sanctions when stability and harmony are threatened, as they are the basis of a well organised and prosperous society.

One country two systems budgeted 50 years to affect the necessary changes in Hong Kong’s social, political and cultural structures to bring its core values into line with Communist Party dogmas and tenets.

“Such an exercise is expected to yield a strict conformity and an agreed unanimous consensus on the mainland’s political, social and cultural life that should assure a condition of harmonious stability as a unifying national force in the territory,” Father Grioni speculates.

He points out that this is not unique at this time, as the same process is currently going on in several autonomous regions of China.

Father Grioni describes the function of this educational system as purporting to promote critical thinking, but it is done under the guise of pushing a new style of political life with positive values, patriotic and nationalistic sentiments backed up by militaristic muscle; while touting ideal organisation under capable leaders, civic attitudes and achievements and belief in the party as the sole agent of true and sound interpretation of facts and events.

He said that he believes that if it is introduced into Hong Kong schools it has the potential to have a deep psychological, social and political impact on young minds and direct them towards a new form of community life.

Father Grioni claims that it is in this context that it can be accused of brainwashing, as it seeks to affect profound changes in human minds.

He points out that although the paper on National and Moral Education uses modern terminology like domain, key stage, planning, stakeholders and assessment strategy, practical topics put forward for discussion like the diverse approaches in society to living issues, historical events, societal problems, family and nation are only mentioned in a general sense.

Father Grioni says he believes that this is intentional and, as the authorities in Hong Kong have pointed out, it is up to the teachers, school sponsoring bodies and principals to give substance to the curriculum guide’s scaffolding.

“The loose structure allows it to be substantiated with anything that is ideologically compatible with the formation of a new political and social system,” Father Grioni explains, “and the advisory panel has the power to review the curriculum… so it is not outlandish to expect that even items and objectives out of the China Model will purposely find their way into the teaching materials and programmes as time goes by.”

He says he believes that this is the point which casts doubt over the curriculum as being independent and more than justifies the anxiety being expressed by parents, students, teachers and civic bodies over the introduction of the curriculum.

The other anxiety that he points to revolves around the question of what comes next. While the National and Moral Education Curriculum addresses ideology, the second fundamental, law enforcement, requires the implementation of Article 23 on national security.

He says the more than half a million people who spilled into the streets of Hong Kong on 1 July 2003 is a clear indication of the lack of communist ideology among the local population.

“This does not reflect a morally or educationally deficient society,” Father Grioni notes, “but rather a society that wishes to continue living and working in a democratic system.”

He says, “In order to make Article 23 more acceptable to the population and make it an integral part of political and social life in Hong Kong, a profound immersion in the dynamics of communist philosophy seems to be the ideal way to prepare young minds.”

He adds that for anyone who is still wondering, a quick glance at the current crop of political leaders in the territory gives the game away.

“Relations between government officials and the people have become more strained and confrontational and many appointed officials in our government behave like cadres. They have gone through a kind of training experience in China,” he claims, “and are now becoming ministers or heads of commissions on current social matters.”

Father Grioni laments, “Many of those hailed previously as supporters of the people with an ear for their cause have mysteriously thrown their support behind government policies.”

He concludes, “I believe that the National and Moral Education Curriculum goes well beyond the justification given by government officials and, however much the people object, they are strongly determined to go ahead with it, as it is a pre-requisite for the introduction of Article 23.”

The school supervisor believes that the political motivation overrides all else.

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