China China is my mother
China China is my home
China China is getting stronger
China China I love her
This three-minute children's song, with only four lines that repeat over and over, has parents worried in Hong Kong. It recently made two appearances at a Hong Kong Catholic primary school's weekly assemblies, and some adults see the catchy tune as an attempt to brainwash their children at a time when tensions between Hong Kong and China are high.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with a high degree of autonomy from the mainland, but Beijing puts tremendous political pressure on Hong Kong to fall in line with its politics. What the Beijing and Hong Kong governments want for the city is often different than what Hong Kongers themselves want — as demonstrated by the recent pro-democracy Occupy Central protests that took over the city's downtown for more than two months.
In 2012, the Hong Kong government scrapped plans to make “patriotic education”, or so-called “national education” which promotes China, part of the compulsory curriculum in elementary education due to a series of protests. The Hong Kong Education Bureau keeps encouraging the national education program through its funding scheme, however, and many schools have introduced the program either formally in the curriculum or as an extracurricular activity.
In the aftermath of the Occupy Central sit-in, Beijing has urged Hong Kong to relaunch the national education program. Both parent and student activist groups are monitoring the situation for developments.
The principal of the Catholic school admitted that he had showed the music video of “China Is My Home” twice in a month during school assemblies, saying the images in the song fit into the theme of the assembly talks on “piety” and “culture”. He stressed he was unaware of the lyrics of the song and did not force the children to sing.
With only four verses song continuously on a loop, it is hard to imagine that one can be unaware of what the song says.
Some parents from the “National Education Parent Concern Group” on Facebook are drafting a letter to the school and the Catholic Church on the matter.
Mok Chi Wai, a writer for citizen journalism platform inmediahk.net, took a closer look at the relationship between members of the Catholic Church and mainland Chinese politics:
Similar to the political environment in Hong Kong, the Catholic Church also has many patriots. There are two types of patriots: democratic patriots and pro-communist patriots. The democratic patriots have a strong Chinese identity and think that believers should love and understand their country. They should assist the development of the country and support the democratic movement. Some of them are critical of the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. […] They like to put patriotism under the framework of “morality”. That's why “China is my mother” and we are her children — this is family by blood and we have to treat the country with the principle of piety. To question “patriotism” is against the principle and hence immoral. Even though they call themselves “critical patriots”, their critique is superficial. They keep preaching for “patriotism” but never ask why. What exactly do we love about this country?
Another type are the pro-Chinese Communist Party patriots. They not only love the country but also the party. They believe in [President] Xi Jinping and think western criticism of China is out of imperial interest.
Some members of the church avoid talking about politics because they want to preach in mainland China or to support the ties between China and the Vatican. Some of them are sincere and understand the price for keeping silent. They keep a low profile and just concentrate on preaching with a humble heart. They don't offend the ruler but neither do they criticize the protesters. Yet some of them take pride in their work and believe that they are taking the right strategy. They criticize the protesters for their silly fights and believe that “politics” would ruin the opportunity for preaching Christianity.
As pressure increases for making the national education program compulsory, the divide and conflict within the church will also escalate. Can religion and politics really remain separate?