P H Yang | Photography
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  Hong Kong Will Never Be The Same
  5 September 2012
  Hong Kong

A Sea of Democratic Umbrellas
A lone reporter from Asia Television (ATV) reports as thousands of protesters brave the frequently heavy rain.

(This photo essay is vetted by CNN on CNN i-Report. Click thru for details)

"Hong Kong will never be the same," observed S M Tsui.

The senior retired journalist and a friend writes columns in several popular newspapers and magazines
plus a daily blog on current affairs, media and culture (in Chinese) and enjoys a wide following.

For three days in a row, about 10,000 students, parents, teachers and citizens have gathered every evening outside
the Hong Kong Government Headquarters near Admiralty (police cited around 4,200) to protest against
government's recent introduction of a national education curriculum which many deem pro-Beijing
and is opposed by 52% of the population, according to a recent poll by the University of Hong Kong.

Many camp outside the government offices occupy-style in support, including 10 adult hunger-strikers
who follow the three secondary (high) school students who struck for 3 days.

The Education Bureau intends to start national education classes to foster Chinese identity, to primary (grade)
schools this September and extends to secondary schools from 2013 and phase in the lessons over three years.

The curriculum is similar to the patriotic education program taught on mainland China. At the heart of the
controversy is a manual titled “China Model,” which describes the Communist Party as “progressive, selfless
and united” and criticizes that multi party systems inflict troubles on their citizens. Even when Hong Kong has a
multi-party political system.

Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim admitted that some of the contents of the manual distributed to the schools by
his Bureau are biased but refused to retract it or the national education program.

Jiang Yudui of China Civic Education Promotion Association of Hong Kong explained, “a brain needs washing if there is a
problem, just as clothes need washing if they’re dirty, and a kidney needs washing if it’s sick.” That added fuel to
the fire.

Even CY Leung, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, admit that not all the materials are ready and available but insist that
the program must go ahead as planned despite strong opposition from a broad spectrum of the community. This reinforces
the rumor that national education is one of his four political missions from Beijing.

The other three missions include enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's Mini-constitution, that "prohibit any
act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion," etc, against Beijing; reining-in of government-owned Radio Television
Hong Kong (RTHK) which considers itself part of the independent press and criticizes as well as lampoons the government quite
frequently; and introducing reforms leading to a directly elected Chief Executive and Legislature that would be acceptable
to Beijing (probably with a high entry threshold or pre-screening by an small election committee).

Leung, of course, vehemently denies that such political missions exist. The government has been trying to assure the public that
the new curriculum is simply an extension of civic education and not a brainwashing exercise.

These protest gatherings resulted from intransigence by the government after 90,000 took to the streets on July 29.
Police counted 32,000. Many parents join the rallies and protest for the first time ever as they feel that the future of
their children to think critically is being threatened.

All these were sparked by a 15 year-old student, Wong Chi-fung, who founded the Facebook group Scholarism with
a following of 121,000 by last count. It is "the social movement from the last few decades with the most angry,
broadest support and the most involved participation," said Tsui.

"Led by secondary school students, it is rational, with easy to understand tangible benefits and eclipsing movements
involving confrontation with police and blocking traffic led by post-80's and -90's groups; and entirely different from
foul-mouthed internet groups," opined Tsui. "Government has no alternative but to retract the program, admit they are
wrong and even change the officials involved."

Meanwhile, Leung's credibility has been challenged after his home was found to have illegally built structures and his
development secretary stepped down due to corruption investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruptions (ICAC).

As Hong Kong heads for the upcoming election for the Legislative Council this Sunday, September 9, the political implications
of this tug-of-war between the Leung government and the people will soon be revealed.

The Young Lion
15 year-old Wong Chi-fung founded the Facebook group, Scholarism, amassed over 121,000 followers and ignited the mass movement that changes Hong Kong forever.

Citizens' Plaza
Protesters turn the ground outside government headquarters into a public space and mark it with a Citizens' Plaza banner.

Waiting for CY
Waiting for CY Leung, Hong Kong Chief Executive (represented by his signature folding chair when he visits the community) is like Waiting for Godot, the absurdist play by Samuel Beckett where the protagonist never shows?

No Brain-washing
Joey Wan sports the paper loop indicating "No Brain-washing" she downloaded from the Scholarism Facebook page.

4 year-old Cally Chan is as engrossed by the music and messages of the gathering as her mom Vanessa. This is the first protest they join ever.

The 14 year-old student creates and carries the sign that reads "Mr C Y Leung, how can you be so heartless?!" wherever she goes, attracting lots of attention.

Hunger Strikers
Hon Lin Shan, Wong Hak Lim and Ms Ho Chi Kwan say no to national education next to the art installation donated, echoing the voices of all 10 hunger-strikers. (Ms Ho has since been hospitalized)

Volunteer students go arm-in-arm to clear a path for the rumored arrival of government officials who never showed up.

Defend Our Children
A protester expresses his conviction that we are duty-bound to defend our children.

School Starts Day
Over 8,000 congregated outside government headquarters in solidarity with the protest. (Note: Overhead walkway at the back is also filled with people)

(This photo essay is vetted by CNN on CNN i-Report. Click thru for details

and was on the front page of CNN iReport News Section on 5-10 September 2012. Click thru for details

The Photo Essay on CNN i-Report. Click thru to view photo essay.

   © p h yang 2012 - all rights reserved