The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to instill loyalty in the country’s youth and reject “wrong ideas and ideology” by teaching schoolchildren that those fighting for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong are “thugs and separatists, incited by foreign forces.”
According to religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter, in October of last year, students in a high school of Fuzhou, the capital of the southeastern province of Fujian, were instructed to buy the recent issue of Current Affairs, a journal published by the CCP’s Publicity Department to be used as supplementary teaching material for schools.
Schools in China are government-controlled, and therefore Communist in ideology.
One topic highlighted in the issue was the protests in Hong Kong, with demonstrators portrayed as “thugs and separatists, incited by foreign forces.”
An article titled “Who Is Behind Hong Kong Riots” criticizes the United States, claiming that “There are many American faces among the violent protesters. Organizations abroad not only instructed the violent activities, but some of them even participated in these vicious attacks.”
One teacher from Fuzhou told the outlet that school instructors have to integrate topics as described in the Current Affairs into their lessons to help students develop “the sense of ethnic identity and nationality.”
Additionally, teachers are told to convince young people to support the Chinese government’s decisions on issues concerning Hong Kong.
“Our teachers told us that the topic of Hong Kong would be included in college entrance exams. We could get high scores if we know it well,” a high school student told Bitter Winter. “We must learn whatever we are taught, right or wrong, true or false so that we could get into colleges. We must learn whatever the government tells us to learn.”
Hong Kong has been embroiled by more than seven months of protests sparked by a now withdrawn extradition bill that would have transferred individuals accused of crimes to mainland China for trial or extradition.
The protests have since escalated into a larger fight against authorities and Chinese rule in addition to calling for democracy, amnesty for the thousands of demonstrators who've been arrested, and an independent investigation into police actions.
Many Christians engaged with the social movement fear that losing Hong Kong’s autonomy and subjecting citizens to China’s legal system will erode religious freedom. China’s human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims, Christians, Falun Gong, and other religious minorities are well-documented.
The topic of Hong Kong protests was also included in the midterm exam for the subject of "Politics and the Rule of Law" for the eighth grade in six middle schools in Fujian’s Zhangzhou city. The exam described the protests as “riots perpetrated by thugs” and “Western anti-China forces.”
“The government wants to incite hatred toward these protestors through exams, fearing that we’ll learn the truth,” a student told Bitter Winter.
Another student from Fuzhou said that teachers in her high school portray Hong Kong protesters as “violent criminals” and “barbarians.”
“Our teachers never explained to us why people in Hong Kong protest. They only show us videos where people are beaten,” the student said. “These videos are purposefully selected to demonstrate that protesters are violent.”
She added that her math teacher warned her class that they would “become the society’s rubbish like the Hong Kong thugs,” if they didn’t follow the rules and discipline and “don’t love the country.”
In recent years, new steps have been taken to tighten the Communist Party’s ideological control over schools, teachers, and students.
In a speech delivered at a Beijing seminar attended by teachers from across the country last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on educators to instill patriotism in the country’s youth and reject “wrong ideas and ideology.”
He also stressed that teachers themselves “should have strict self-discipline, be consistent in class and out of class, online and offline, should consciously carry forward the main melody and actively convey positive energy.
In July, it was reported that schoolchildren in China are taught that Christianity is an “evil cult” and encouraged to “hate God.”
Last year, teachers were ordered to sign “moral commitments” pledging “to support the leadership of the Communist Party, implement Xi’s thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics and the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the CCP.”
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA ranks China at No. 23 on its 2020 World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Open Doors CEO David Curry warned that China could be shaping the future of international religious minority oppression through its use of surveillance technologies to monitor Christians and other religious adherents.
He stressed that the data “seems to point to the fact that China seems to be resurrecting the god-as-government state.”
“We are all threatened by this: atheists, Jews, Muslims, everyone,” Curry said.
“They are using this artificial intelligence and surveillance to a whole new level,” he added. “All indications show that in 2020 — and this is why we are highlighting this — they are bringing these two systems together. They are merging the social scoring system and surveillance and artificial intelligence to give them the tools and the power to oppress the people.”