Record-high turnout for anti-national education protests
Donning black, tens of thousands of protesters against the allegedly ‘brainwashing’ national education flooded the plazas outside the Tamar government headquarters, crowded the connected Tamar Park and pedestrian overpasses, and spilled over from Admiralty to Wan Chai.
Organisers estimated 120,000 protesters joined the rally, which lasted from Friday evening till early Saturday morning, while police said the number was 36,000 by 9.30pm yesterday. Both numbers are recorded as the highest in a series of anti-national education protests starting last Thursday.
“I’m touched seeing so many people showing up here,” said Vincent Ng, a 27-year-old teacher who came after work. “It shows how citizens don't want national education. If the government is sincere, it should stop ignoring our voices and withdraw it [national education]!”
Founding chairman of the Democratic Party Martin Lee Chu-ming, founder of Next Media Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun visited the hunger strikers separately during the protest.
Lee said the central government is ‘forcing the SAR government to do what is against the public opinion’ by starting national education.
“I hope, at this critical moment, that the central government can rein in the horse before it reaches the cliff,” he said.
Zen urged the protesting youths to keep calm and not to escalate the protests. He said he is ‘disappointed at the government’s lack of reaction’ and he asked the government to inform Beijing about Hong Kong people’s requests.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying invited representatives from three protesting groups, namely Scholarism, Parents Concern Group on National Education and Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, to start conversations, which should be open to all possibilities, with him and chairwoman of the Committee on Implementation of Moral and National Education Anna Wu Hung-yuk.
The groups said they are willing to accept the invitation, but they require the conversations to be public with media presence.
Meanwhile, Wong Hon-kam, chairman of the Union of Government School Teachers, said yesterday that the Education Bureau has ordered government school principals to watch their teachers’ and students’ support for the anti-national education campaign by recording how many teachers wore black clothes and how many students wore black ribbons on their wrists at school.
The bureau admitted it has provided ‘references and guidelines’ for government schools to better prepare for potential class boycotts and incoming inquiries from the public, calling it ‘a responsible move’ with no ‘improper purposes’.
University students have pledged to hold a city-wide class boycott next week. Shirley Zhao, and photography
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