The Diocese of Hong Kong has instructed Catholic academic institutions in the city to explain the provisions of the new National Security Law to students.
Teachers are encouraged to “foster the correct values on [students’] national identity” and to respect Chinese national symbols including the flag and national anthem.
In a letter, Peter Lau Chiu Yin, episcopal delegate for education in the diocese, advised schools to set up a regular mechanism to “effectively monitor the handling of teaching materials, assignments, examination papers, and books” chosen by teaching staff and instructors, reported CNA.
In June, Beijing has imposed the controversial security legislation “criminalizing subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers” in Hong Kong.
Provisions of the law state that Hong Kong shall “promote national security education in schools and universities” and the government shall “take necessary measures to strengthen public communication, guidance, supervision, and regulation in matters concerning national security, including in schools and universities.”
The Hong Kong Diocese told school administrators to ensure schools are communities “led by professional educators and are based on the values of righteousness, the pursuit of truth, benevolence, and peace in all circumstances.”
It also added that teachers must “stringently, rationally, objectively and impartially handle teaching materials in accordance with the principles and objectives of the syllabus, students’ abilities, and needs, in a professional matter, and nurture positive values in students.”
The letter stressed that Catholic schools must prevent the “politicization” of students and their involvement in any political activities without the schools’ permission.
“Policies and regulations within schools should prevent campuses from politicization and should bar people from using premises for the unilateral promotion of political messages, positions, or views,” the letter read.
The group International Christian Concern said that although the Diocese of Hong Kong stated that the letter was a mere “suggestion,” the instruction “sends a clear signal of the decreasing academic freedom” in Hong Kong’s Catholic schools.
The group claimed that the Catholic Church in Hong Kong “has also been pressed to tighten its grip” on the education system as Beijing “increasingly extends its influence.”
“These measures are clearly consequences of the recently passed security law and an attempt to stop democratic protests, which have been taking place for the past year with participation for many students,” the group said.
The group noted that nearly half of the 3,725 students who were arrested during these demonstrations were from secondary schools.
On Aug. 10, police arrested several prominent democracy activists, including 23-year-old Catholic Agnes Chow who credited her activism to her Catholic education.
Cardinal John Tong Hon, apostolic administrator of the Hong Kong Diocese, earlier said that be believed the new law would have “no effect on religious freedom.”
The prelate also said that the relationship of Hong Kong Catholics to the Holy See could not be considered as “collusion with foreign forces” under the new law’s provisions.