Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
How are your students treating you lately? Are they still keeping you on your toes with their rackety yet endearing ways? I hope you had the chance to recharge during the Christmas holidays, and are ready to tackle the new term. Teachers are surely under tremendous stress given the political situation now. I can only imagine your frustration when even I, an outsider of the teaching profession, am so disappointed in our government’s education policy. You are already overstretched in your teaching job. The National Anthem Bill is only adding oil to fire by creating much unnecessary stress and tension.
And all this is for what? For love and respect for the motherland, they say. But how much of this love and respect is genuine, when such feelings are motivated by fear? Love and respect are rare, and there is no way a person can have another person’s love and respect resorting to force, threats, or bribery. The government thought law and punishment could force some national pride out of us, not knowing that these feelings can’t be true when it’s coerced, or they don’t want to know. It’s something to be earned. The people are not puppets or chess pieces to be ordered around. We are all living beings of flesh and blood with our own individual consciousness.
As a teacher, you have explained this so well to me before. No amount of scolding can make a student trust you if you can’t prove yourself deserving of their love and respect. And this is especially true with children. They are always so frank with their feelings. This takes us to another issue with the National Anthem Bill. Who are we to prohibit a child from showing how they really feel? Who are we to police their thoughts and opinion? Who are we to punish a child for dissenting a government that they hold no love for, and that has done nothing to deserve their loyalty? And above all, why are we placing the burden of punishment upon teachers who are already bearing the weight of the world upon their shoulders? It makes no sense to me at all.
To quote the bill itself, it states that those who insult the national anthem are in violation of the law. The word 'insult' brings about a lot of problems. The ambiguity and lack of clarity in its definition could risk abuse. We Hongkongers pride ourselves on our justice system. Hong Kong's laws are not based on subjective wordings, this bill however is an exception to this rule. How can our government ask us to pledge our faith and trust in a law so vague and loose? How can our government ask us to believe in a law that shakes up the very foundation of Hong Kong?
More importantly, how can we trust a government that instills unnecessary fear into its people? The Secretary for Education is placing the brunt of this law's burden upon teachers. Including national anthem in the school curriculum may be justifiable, but to say that teachers should be given the task of disciplining students who 'insult' the national anthem, that is just mindless and irresponsible, when there is no clear definition to the word 'insult'. How are teachers like you, professionals in education and not the law, expected to carry out this task reasonably and adequately?
I know some of your favorite students closely follow Hong Kong politics and have expressed their frustrations about the government through various peaceful means. One of which is to rewrite the lyrics of the national anthem. The bill sees alteration of the national anthem’s lyrics or score a criminal offence, so is to play it or sing it in a distorted or disrespectful way. Through this legislation, the central government managed to deal yet another a blow to our free speech. Not just your students, people around the world have remixed or even rewritten their national anthems to vent their frustrations at their governments. The National Anthem Bill effectively takes away this means of peaceful protest.
Once again, our sunflower souls are beaten and battered by the harsh winds of the administration. I cannot imagine how anyone can even think that respect can be made a law. Following Machiavelli's advice, even ancient rulers knew that genuine love and respect could only earned through dedication and effort. Human hearts are not easily swayed by mere words on paper, even if it’s a law.
Of course, I do hope from the bottom of my heart that one day, each and every Hongkonger can look at the Mainland with love, pride, and respect. Though in light of the attitude harboured by those who are presently in power, I'm afraid this future is still quite far away. Despite this, I hope you can promise me that you will keep your sunflower alive and thrive, no matter what the world throws at you. We have to stand united and unyielding in face of unjust laws.