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Chinese Patriotism Classes Fuel Protest in Hong Kong

Thousands of protesters -- including teachers, students, parents and pro-democracy activists -- marched in Hong Kong in late July. They were protesting a plan to teach Chinese patriotism classes in Hong Kong schools.

Organizers said 90 thousand people marched to the government headquarters. But police gave a lower estimate of 32 thousand.

The Hong Kong government says the classes are meant to build Chinese national pride. The government plans to require the classes in elementary schools, starting in 2015. But the government is urging schools to voluntarily launch the program when schools reopen this September.

The curriculum includes a teaching booklet called "The China Model." It praises the one-party rule of the Communist Party. However, it says nothing about the crushing of pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989.

Ting Kwing-chan has been teaching primary school for 38 years. He says he was not persuaded by the booklet. "I don't even believe the content myself, so it's difficult to teach my students," he says.

Chan Yip-Long, a nine-year-old student in the march, said: "China wants to unify Hong Kong. Our next generation only knows how great China is, but not the bad stuff."

Protester Paul Yeung, a parent of two children, says he worries that too much "one-sided education is not good for the mental development of young people."

The protest was another sign of public concern about what critics see as the Chinese government's interference in the former British colony. Britain returned Hong Kong to China on July first, 1997. China promised to let the territory largely govern itself.

This year, more than 100 thousand people joined a pro-democracy march on July first. It was the largest such gathering in eight years. Many of the protesters demanded that the city's new leader resign. Leung Chun-ying took office earlier that day. He was chosen by a mostly pro-Beijing committee.

Willy Lam is a China specialist in Hong Kong. He says people in Hong Kong have lost trust in Hong Kong government. He says they are afraid the administration of Leung Chun-ying will take orders from the Beijing to support the Communist Party and not spread knowledge of China in a fair way.

To read, listen and learn English, go to You can also find our captioned videos at the VOA Learning English channel on YouTube. For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.