Hong Kong Chinese Resist Having their Brains Laundered

UPDATE: You can see some wonderful photos of the demonstrations here.

Hong Kongers are demonstrating en masse as the CCP tries to shove down their throats a new student curriculum larded with Mainland propaganda. This is worse than the Creationist-modeled school curriculum instituted by the Texas Board of Education.

The new curriculum would be similar to the so-called patriotic education taught in mainland China. The materials, including a handbook entitled “The China Model,” describe the Communist Party as “progressive, selfless and united” and criticize multiparty systems, even though Hong Kong has multiple political parties.

Critics liken the curriculum to brainwashing and say that it glosses over major events like the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It will be introduced in some elementary schools in September and be mandatory for all public schools by 2016.

Talks between the education minister, Eddie Ng, and the National Education Parents’ Concern Group broke down on Saturday. Mr. Ng later denied that the curriculum was akin to brainwashing.

One demonstrator, Elaine Yau, who was there with her 7-year-old daughter, said that people wanted a say in what was taught in the schools. “We feel like we have no choice,” she said.

One point of contention is that many of the city’s governing elite send their children to the West or to expensive foreign-run international schools, which will be exempt from the national education. The curriculum will be mandatory for the public schools used by most of the working and middle classes.

This part then took the cake. Leave it to a pro-Beijing official to say exactly the wrong thing.

Before the protest, Jiang Yudui of the pro-Beijing China Civic Education Promotion Association of Hong Kong added fuel to the fire when he told Hong Kong’s residents that the curriculum should “wash their brains.”

“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,” he said, according to the local news media.

In response, protesters waved flags showing a cartoon brain with a line crossed through it. “No thought control! Preserve one country, two systems!” they chanted, referring to the agreement that gives Hong Kong political rights that are not allowed on the mainland.

So there we have it. The dirty brains of Hong Kong kids need a little washing. At least he admits it. Big congratulations to the 32,000 HKers who care enough to demonstrate in public over it. Of course, the pro-Beijing leaders are saying their decision is irrevocable no matter how many citizens take to the streets. I see this as ominous, vile and dictatorial. I can’t imagine Hong Kong ever cooperating, even if it becomes the law.

Some of us really believed there would be one country and two systems. We seem to have been wrong, though we knew that many years ago.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 64 Comments

he was just saying they shouldn’t be physically aggressive, which is no different from the mayor of Chicago telling demonstrators to remain peaceful while the NATO summit is going on. Fairly standard stuff from a municipal government member

Hang on, t_co – the Chicago mayor would hardly add that any other behavior would “startle” NATO and turn it into an enemy of the city’s development. I can’t see how Chicago would belong in this HK topic.

this issue reflects some serious insensitivity going on at the office

What makes you believe it would be an insensitivity? It’s a political claim, and, after all, backed up by actual policies.

HKers would be extremely unhappy if the PRC government applied the Tibet/Xinjiang formula to Hong Kong.

Sure. But to avoid misunderstandings, that’s not my point. My point is that the CCP can’t leave civil society to itself – nowhere within its jurisdiction, be it on mainland China, be it, under different formulae, in Hong Kong.
As Joyce said earlier in this thread, there is probably no significant number of Hong Kongers who would want “independence”. But a significant number of them keeps documenting – by their presence in the streets -, that their ideas are very different from Beijing’s. These are no insensitivities – these are differences.

August 4, 2012 @ 9:04 pm | Comment

One thing which I think will have an impact on comparable situations around the globe is the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence (should be sometime before 2014).

It’s a challenge for democracy in the UK and the whole world will be watching.

It would be ironic if the potential break-up of the UK had a lasting impact on the modern world.

August 4, 2012 @ 9:10 pm | Comment

I agree with JR. I think HKers would be satisfied with “2 systems” if the name reflected reality. After all, it would provide the benefit of being in CHina without the baggage and crap associated with being a mainlander. That said, I suspect the CCP is unwilling to leave good enough alone, for fear of mainlanders chirping up with requests for “me too” sooner or later. And the CCP can’t have that…

As a result, we start getting creep…yeah sure it’s two systems, nudge nudge wink wink, but we’re just gonna get started on this “washing brain” process on the side.

August 5, 2012 @ 5:24 am | Comment

@Xilin – Barring some great movement in opinion, an actual referendum on independence should return a ‘no’ – polling consistently shows a solid 65% in favour of continuing the union. More likely the referendum will be on ‘increased independence’ – greater powers to the Scottish parliament.

It’s likely that Scotland will follow a similar arc to that travelled by Quebec, where BQ rode the pro-independence sentiment right to the end of line, and were then wiped out by a unionist party.

August 5, 2012 @ 5:27 am | Comment

You’re right, the Bloc was eviscerated in the last federal election. But the PQ (provincial version of the same thing) are poised to unseat the current Liberal government in the province, and they’re on record as planning more referendums if they win the election. It’ll be the first time since 1995 if we see independence referendums in Quebec again.

August 5, 2012 @ 5:49 am | Comment


I completely agree, that is the most likely outcome, as things look now.

But, like elections, you never know what might happen on the day.

The point is that the Scottish people will be given the chance to vote on the issue of indepence. I think that will be news. Maybe other people around the world will see that issues such as this can be resolved peacefully.

August 5, 2012 @ 8:06 am | Comment

HK should be given the freedom to develop their own curriculum. Keep the curriculum reasonable so kids don’t have to drill endlessly like many kids do in China. Check out this interview of a recent high school graduate from China. These kids have to study 90 hours a week, more than twice as many hours as the average adult works!


August 5, 2012 @ 10:48 am | Comment

Gil, I seem to remember that Cameron wants the referendum to be about either Scottish independence, or union – and nothing in between. Has that changed, or do you expect that the wording be different, once there is a referendum?

I believe that Cameron – if I remember his comments correctly – would be right. Continuous devolvement of sovereign functions, but all under the name of a “union”, would spell “independence by getting the Scots into the habit” (my name for what I believe would be Salmond’s recipe).

That said, I’m only loosely paying attention to the process, and I may well have missed something.

August 5, 2012 @ 11:38 am | Comment

@JR – That’s about right, and the wording of the referendum was the reason why there was so much debate was about who had the power to hold the referendum. Also Cameron wanted to avoid vote-splitting in the Unionist bloc between those in favour of greater autonomy and those not.

@Xilin – I doubt a vote on Scots independence would have that much effect. Canada’s vote on independence for Quebec could well have spelt the end for Canada as well, and it went very close, but I can’t remember it making much of an impression outside Canada.

The UK also held a referendum in Northern Ireland on continued membership of the UK or unification with the Irish Republic in the 1973, but it was boycotted by Republicans when they realised that there was no way that they could win it (small problem of 60-70% of the population voting Unionist at every single election). Again, this didn’t make much of an impression even on the people of Northern Ireland, and the Troubles dragged on.

August 5, 2012 @ 6:25 pm | Comment


The votes in Canada and Northern Ireland were a long time ago now. Thanks to the internet and social media the world has got smaller (and it will get more so). This has already had a huge impact on the modern world.

I’m not saying this referendum is going to change the world, but it could be a catalyst.

August 6, 2012 @ 1:23 am | Comment

@Richard. Re the thread which you just closed.

I don’t remember Deng Yujiau being a karaoke waitress.

I recall that she was the laundress in the establishment (but I may be wrong.)

Look forward to your advice.

August 6, 2012 @ 5:42 am | Comment


btw, take a look at this article. Baidu employees censor posts for cash.

basically the tip of the iceberg, imo.

August 6, 2012 @ 10:24 am | Comment

KT, let’s not split hairs. I believe she was either a waitress or an attendant at the karaoke bar — either way, she was an employee there. Not a performer or a masseuse or a “hostess.” If you go here, she’s described as a “waitress.” But what’s the difference?

August 6, 2012 @ 10:38 am | Comment

@Gil, re Scottish/Quebec independence. I thought they’d just keep having referenda until the people finally voted correctly 😉
Mind you, wonder what the Scottish independence results would be if all of Britain (especially England…given there’s more people living there than there) was allowed to vote on the matter….
Given the results of Czechoslovak splitting and Slovenia breaking away (things got ugly when Croatia started down that path, mind) from the Yugoslav union, I too can’t see England and Scotland going their separate ways as being too big a deal in world wide geopolitical terms.

TickTock – learn the meaning of colony and the implications for democracy into that….

August 6, 2012 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

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