The Hong Kong government has said it welcomed the adoption of China’s patriotic education law, which was passed by the country’s rubber-stamp legislature on Tuesday.

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A uniformed group raises the China and Hong Kong flags at a flag-raising ceremony at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Oct. 1, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government welcomes the adoption of the Patriotic Education Law of the People’s Republic of China at the 6th session of the Standing Committee of the 14th National People’s Congress,” a statement issued by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau late on Tuesday night read.

The law “sets out the main content of patriotic education, covering areas such as ideology and politics, history and culture, national symbols, the magnificent scenery and historical and cultural heritage of the motherland, constitution and law, national unity and ethnic solidarity, national security and defense, and the deeds of heroes and martyrs and role models,” according to the statement.

Its scope also “includes provisions on patriotic education for different groups such as compatriots in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.”

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Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect John Lee (left) meets Chinese leader Xi Jinping on May 30, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

The push for patriotic education is the latest ideological campaign from China’s leader Xi Jinping, who has already sought to unify and educate members of the Communist Party of China according to his doctrine, Xi Jinping Though on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, or Xi Jinping Thought.

The patriotic education law, which will come into effect on January 1, follows unprecedented, countrywide protests in late 2022 against stringent Covid-19 related policies. Many young Chinese participated in the demonstrations at home and abroad, which were briefly seen as a test for Xi’s rule.

‘Persistent efforts’ in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said that the city would “fully facilitate the relevant work to co-ordinate within the Government and also the patriotic forces of different sectors in making persistent efforts to promote patriotic education, so as to enable the public to gain further knowledge of the history, culture and rapid development in all aspects of our country and understand the close relationship between Mainland and Hong Kong,” according to Tuesday night’s statement.

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A China National Day patriotic gathering in Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday, October 1, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The government has ramped up efforts in boosting patriotic education following the 2019 extradition bill protests and unrest, with officials blaming young people’s weak sense of national identity as a root problem.

Since the national security law was passed in June 2020, criminalising secession, subversion, foreign collusion and terrorism, “national education” has become ensconced in Hong Kong’s education system, from kindergartens to tertiary institutions.

Mandatory national security law courses at universities, replaced the liberal studies subject with one emphasising content about mainland China, and reportedly removed books on topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

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Mercedes is a British journalist who has been based in Hong Kong since 2012. At Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered a number of local environmental issues, including climate inequality and marine biodiversity, and explored how Hong Kong's arts scene reflects a changing city. She has contributed to the Guardian and BBC Travel, and previously worked at the South China Morning Post, where she wrote a weekly column about the social and environmental impact of tourism in Asia.