Hong Kong schools must fly the Chinese flag daily and conduct weekly flag-raising ceremonies from the beginning of next year to promote affection for the mainland’s people and a sense of belonging to the nation, the Education Bureau has announced .
Under new regulations issued on Monday, the national flag should be flown every school day and on three key public holidays: New Year’s Day, the anniversary of the handover on July 1, and China’s National Day on October 1.
Schools must hold weekly flag-raising ceremonies at which China’s national anthem will be sung. The bureau also “strongly advised” schools to hold flag-raising ceremonies on important and special occasions, such as graduations and sports days.
Updated legislation governing the treatment of the national flag and emblem came into effect last Friday.
The new arrangements are intended “to promote national education and help students develop a sense of belonging to the country, an affection for the Chinese people and enhance their sense of national identity,” the bureau said in a statement.
The new guidelines also provide for the display of Hong Kong’s own bauhinia flag if schools have “adequate flagpoles.”
Universities and other tertiary education institutions should “take reference” of the new protocol for primary and secondary schools when arranging to display the national flag on campuses.
“The EDB issued a letter today to relevant institutions to remind them of their responsibilities under the Ordinance,” Monday’s statement read.
Kindergartens urged to follow suit
Kindergartens are also expected to hold weekly flag-raising ceremonies where space and conditions allow “so that students can learn about the national flag and national anthem of their own country from an early age.”
The new protocols are not mandatory for non-local schools. The bureau however “strongly recommended” international and private schools to follow the practice so as to “enable students of different ethnicities or nationalities to learn about the culture and history of the country where they live,” according to the statement on Monday.
The announcement came as lessons about the importance of the national flag and emblem are being inserted into school curriculums. Schools must by 2022 follow a new “national security” curriculum mandated by the Beijing-enacted security law.
The education sector is coming under increasing pressure to comply with the security law. The Secretary for Education has said the government will announce oath-taking procedures for teachers in due course.
In August, the bureau cut ties with the city’s largest teachers’ union, accusing it of “spreading political propaganda.” The move, and sustained pressure from Chinese-backed media and officials, prompted the union, which represented over 90 per cent of the city’s educators, to disband within a fortnight.
The union’s leaders had accused the government of “scapegoating” the education sector for the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest, which the government has largely blamed on student-aged protesters.