HONG KONG (ChurchMilitant.com) - Hong Kong's Catholic Church is urging its schools to promote a "correct understanding" of the China-imposed national security law, while warning students not to spread "any one-sided political message."
"Students should have a correct understanding of the national security and national anthem laws," Peter Lau Chiu-yin, the diocese of Hong Kong's episcopal delegate for education, wrote Tuesday to heads of 200 primary and secondary Catholic schools.
"Their sense of national security and law-abiding awareness should be enhanced, as they should also learn about and respect the national flag, emblem and anthem," Lau Chiu-yin stresses.
The national anthem ordinance which criminalizes insulting March of the Volunteers — national anthem of the People's Republic of China including its special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau — was approved by China's legislative body in 2017 and passed by Hong Kong's legislature in June.
Offenders who deliberately alter, parody or show disrespect to the anthem face fines of up to HK$50,000 or three years in jail.
The anthem law also requires the history and spiritual meaning of the anthem to be taught in primary and middle school curricula students and sung together following the correct protocol in performance.
School authorities should "enhance students awareness to national security and [the importance of] abiding to the law, have them learn and respect the national flag, the national emblem and the national anthem and foster the correct values on their national identity, consistent with the Catholic teaching," the diocesan letter states.
Anticipating the new academic year in September, the diocesan directive reminds teachers to handle teaching materials in a "careful, rational, objective and unbiased manner."
"School management shall set up a regular mechanism to effectively monitor the handling of teaching materials, assignments, examination papers and books chosen by teaching staff and instructors," it indicates.
"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," Lau Chiu-yin maintains.
The diocese told South China Morning Post that the letter was a guideline and not mandatory for schools to follow and was written in response to some principals and school supervisors seeking advice after an earlier letter from the Education Bureau in July.
But sources told Church Militant that the letter was issued in direct compliance to Article 10 of the new national security law also known as "The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region."
Article 10 requires the "Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" to "promote national security education in schools and universities and through social organizations, the media, the internet and other means to raise the awareness of Hong Kong residents of national security and of the obligation to abide by the law."
Sources also said that the letter was written in response to an increasing number of students participating in protests against the security law and communist China's tyrannical crackdown.
Reportedly, 3,725 of the 9,216 people arrested during the anti-government protests in July were students, with 45% of the students still in secondary school.
In June, music teacher Miss Lee was sacked after she failed to ban students from humming "Glory to Hong Kong" — an iconic anthem of Hong Kong's anti-extradition bill movement — during a music assessment.
In the same month, secondary students were forced to call off a human chain demonstration after police warned school principals that the event could be seen as an unauthorized assembly.
Students went ahead with a human chain demonstrating solidarity with the dismissed music teacher.
There have been 222 complaints involving teacher conduct during the protests over the past year. 26 teachers have been warned they could lose their teaching license if they repeat the offense.
On Wednesday, Church Militant reported that Pope Francis was set to renew the Vatican's secret deal with China after negotiations on bishops' appointments proved that "the framework has worked well for the past two years."
But expert on communism and papal biographer Prof. Paul Kengor told Church Militant: "The Chinese communists, like Soviet communists, are shrewd and they prey on weakness and gullibility. If they think they can dupe you, they will dupe you. The Vatican needs to be very careful and very smart in dealing with these folks."
A number of diocesan schools are run by the Canossian nuns, Caritas, Maryknoll missionaries and the Salesians.
Church Militant wrote to Hong Kong's Catholic Education Office. No response was received as of press time.