Despite widespread outrage in Hong Kong against plans by the government to introduce brainwashing "moral and national eduction" in schools, it did not translate into victory for pro-democratic parties in Sunday's legislative election.
The phenomenon reflects the complicated emotions of Hong Kong residents.
Since the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997, Hong Kongers have cared the most about not sacrificing the interests of Hong Kong and whether the "one country, two systems" commitment is honored.
The "national education" plan deeply hurt the feelings of Hong Kongers because it implied that Hong Kongers do not have a strong enough "Chinese identity."
But if China still questioned the "Chinese identity" of Hong Kongers 15 years after the territory's handover from Britain, was it really a step forward to attempt to impose old-fashion Chinese patriotism and nationalism on Hong Kong's next generation?
The best way for Beijing to strengthen the national identity of Hong Kongers is enhancing China's prosperity, democracy and social progress, instead of resorting to such overbearing steps, which are bound to draw backlash.
One example from the "national education" curriculum guidelines describes a person being moved to tears and feeling the "pride of being Chinese" when the national flag is raised. For patriotic values to be linked to such minor details, it is questionable whether it will really help strengthen national identity and patriotism.
Although only 17 percent of respondents answered "Chinese" when asked if they see themselves as "Hong Kongers" or "Chinese" in a recent survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong, this cannot prove that people in Hong Kong do not identify with China. Otherwise, the pro-China faction would not have won the legislative election.
In fact, the rising "Hong Kong consciousness" in recent years reflects Hong Kongers' worries about the loss of Hong Kong's distinguishing characteristics and autonomy. What Beijing should do is provide Hong Kongers with more space, instead of questioning their patriotic awareness and attempting to impose controls over them. (Editorial abstract -- Sept. 12, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)