Pandas and Trump teach children about national security crimes in Hong Kong

Pandas and Trump teach children about national security crimes in Hong Kong

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Rows of wriggling Hong Kong schoolchildren watched as a short film explained what constitutes a crime of national security, using the example of former US President Donald Trump – and as a warning.

The TV was surrounded by dozens of stuffed panda toys that the kids could play with later if they listened carefully.

The performance took place at Hong Kong’s first patriotic education center, which teaches students about the city’s new national security law and China’s history and achievements.

Beijing imposed the sweeping law on Hong Kong to wipe out dissent after large and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in 2019 – and schools have been told to instill a new sense of patriotism in children.

As the new academic year began on Thursday, another group of about 40 students from Pui Kiu College, known for its patriotic teaching, were among the first visitors.

“Can anyone tell me why national security is so important,” a retired teacher-turned-volunteer leader, who gave her surname Kan, asked the tweeting crowd.

“Humanity cannot live well without national security,” replied one student.

“Well said,” Kan replied. “People can’t live well, neither can pandas.”

Kan told AFP her “most important” job is helping children understand the four new criminal offenses under the Security Act: secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism.

– Trump and Lai –

During Kan’s speech, Trump and the January 6, 2021 riot on Capitol Hill were used to illustrate subversion — the crime of overthrowing or undermining the government.

For collusion with foreign countries, she used the imprisoned pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai from Hong Kong – without naming him.

Lai and senior editors of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper face an upcoming trial over collusion over alleged lobbying for international sanctions against Hong Kong.

Kan then turned to the moment when pro-democracy protesters broke into Hong Kong’s legislature in 2019.

“What crime was committed by the kids who looked like they were going insane in the Legislative Council?” Kan asked.

“Terrorism,” some students replied.

“They didn’t set fires or kill people,” Kan said, pointing out the crime of subversion.

– Political changeover –

The center is run by the city’s largest pro-Beijing teachers’ union in a vacant school at the foot of Lion Rock – a mountain popularly regarded as a symbol of the city’s go-getter spirit.

Until recently, Hong Kong teachers were also able to join a pro-democracy union, which was shut down following the political crackdown.

The big rallies of 2019 came after years of growing calls for Hong Kongers to have a greater say in how their city is governed.

Leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong have rejected calls for democracy, instead portraying the movement as a foreign-orchestrated conspiracy to destabilize all of China.

Hong Kong’s new leader John Lee, a former security chief who helped direct the crackdown, attended the center’s inauguration ceremony in July.

“In the past, some people with evil intentions … have polluted national education for a long time,” he said at the time.

“I firmly believe that the center will be … a learning field that will nurture a new generation of youth who love China and Hong Kong.”

Kan told AFP that she used to attend annual Hong Kong vigils to commemorate pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese troops in Tiananmen Square.

“But after seeing how violent it got on TV (2019) I had a big turn,” she said, referring to the protests.

“I regret how late I started to love my country,” she said, tears welling in her eyes.

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