Tag Archives: China

Youth Identity and Hong Kong’s New National Security Education

by Shivahn Garvie

National security education was incorporated into the Hong Kong school curriculum in the 2021-22 academic year as a consequence of growing localist sentiment and anti-Beijing creed. Last year, the Hong Kong Education Bureau substituted “liberal studies” in secondary schools for a new subject called “citizenship and social development,” and this year authorities have announced that the “current life and society” subject will also be replaced within the next two years.

“Liberal studies” was offered as an optional course in Hong Kong secondary schools alongside “life and society” as of 2012. “Life and society” covered the socioeconomic development of Hong Kong and China and their distinct political systems, but saw minimal uptakes. Pending the expiration of Hong Kong’s autonomy from China approaching in 2047, many fear that the education reforms only mark the beginning of cultural and institutional change in the city. Pro-Beijing politicians accused the more popular elective, “liberal studies”, of radicalizing youth and inciting the 2019 anti-government protests. As a consequence, the Hong Kong Education Bureau replaced “liberal studies” with “citizenship and social development,” centered on lawfulness, patriotism and promoting students’ understanding of China’s national security to foster a national identity.

The core values of “life and society” included social justice and freedom, but the words, “democracy”, “integrity” and “social justice” are notably absent from the curriculum of its replacement subject, “citizenship, economics and society”. Unlike the old subject that aimed to induce political participation, the new subject has dropped content regarding government decision-making procedures, including an admonishment to communicate with the Legislative Council. Instead, “citizenship, economics and society” is oriented towards enriching students’ understanding of Beijing’s jurisdiction through outlining the primary offences under the national security law and the Hong Kong Basic Law. The Education Bureau announced that they would provide teaching materials for the new subject at the beginning of this academic year, and textbooks for 2024. The textbooks will be reviewed by a committee whose members remain undisclosed, ostensibly to protect them from external pressure and prejudice. However, many question the legitimacy of the committee and these textbooks given that the new “citizenship and social development” textbooks from earlier this year erroneously claimed that Hong Kong was never a British colony, but merely an occupied territory.

In addition to academic content reforms, Hong Kong schools are facing pressure to increase teaching time apportioned to patriotic content. The Education Bureau has asked Hong Kong schools to allocate a quarter of teaching time during primary school education to activities and discussions concerning Chinese culture and the constitution. This overhaul of Hong Kong’s primary school education is driven by a new curriculum guide that emphasizes the cultivation of a sense of belonging and identity through national security education to become responsible citizens. This is a stark contrast to the learning goals under the old guide, which stressed the importance of discriminating between right and wrong and tolerance towards diverse values.

Owing to these changes, the Education Bureau conducted an inspection of 169 out of 1,160 schools in Hong Kong in the 2021-22 academic year and deduced that efforts to incorporate national security education into the curriculum was “unsatisfactory”. This inspection was brought on by the revision of the teachers’ code of conduct which details that they must advance national education and divulge illegal activities or “morally deviant information” to authorities. The previous administration promised to revamp the code after lawmakers accused teachers of instigating students’ participation in the 2019 protests.

As the expiration of Hong Kong’s autonomy from China approaches in the year 2047, many fear that these education reforms only mark the beginning of cultural and institutional change in the city. However, the reluctant uptake of nationalist initiatives promises the retention of Hong Kong culture and values for the time being.

Works Cited

Kang-Chung, Ng. “Patriotism, national security education should make up a quarter of primary schools’ teaching time, Hong Kong Education Bureau says”, South China Morning Post, 8 September 2022. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/3191871/hong-kong-education-bureau-suggests-primary-schools-spend?module=hard_link&pgtype=article.

Yiu, William. “What you need to know about Hong Kong’s new school subject focused on national security, sense of belonging”, South China Morning Post, 16 October 2022. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/3196123/what-you-need-know-about-hong-kongs-new-school-subject.

The Detention of the Two Michaels: A Story on China’s Human Rights Abuses

By: Peter Xavier Rossetti

Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor, known as the “two Michaels,” returned to Canada after spending over 1000 days detained in China. Their collective story is a harrowing example of China’s human rights violations and willingness to use people as a means for geopolitical gain. Now that they are home and present in the minds of Canadians and others, it is essential to report their treatment while in China accurately. Background information is necessary to understand the severity of the tribulation the two Michaels faced.

In early December of 2018, a woman named Meng Wanzhou was about to make a layover stop in Canada while flying to Mexico (Corera, 2020). Nothing, in particular, made this stopover in Vancouver strange, but Wanzhou was no ordinary tourist. Wanzhou is the chief financial officer of Huawei, and the United States wanted her on charges of bank and wire fraud that helped her company circumnavigate the US sanction on Iran (Karphal, 2020). As soon as she landed in Vancouver, Canadian officials arrested her and prepared her extradition case to the States. Several days later, Michael Spavor and Michael Korvig were detained in China.

Korvig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, a businessman, were convicted of vague espionage and spying charges, with the latter being sentenced to 11 years in prison by Chinese courts (Aziz, 2021). Many people speculated that the arrests were an act of retaliation by the Chinese government after the arrest of Wanzhou in Canada. Despite Canadian and American attempts to persuade China into dropping the charges, the two men would go on to spend nearly three years of their lives detained. The conditions of their detention were brutal, and they highlight the gross and arbitrary imprisonment tactics employed by the Chinese government.

Korvig and Spavor spent most of their imprisonment completely cut-off from the outside world. Chinese officials allowed the two men to make only a handful of phone calls throughout their captivity while also barring Canadian diplomats from reaching them (Coletta, 2021). To put into perspective how isolated they were, Korvig and Spavor appeared to be missing common knowledge about current international events. For example, after a long-overdue meeting with a consular in October of 2020, Korvig was finally informed that the pandemic had spread across the world, resulting in the death of millions (Hopper, 2021). Deprived of basic information pertaining to current events, Korvig and Spavor spent their days detached and unaware of what was happening in the outside world.

Isolation was not the only thing the two Michaels had to cope with during their detainment, as the actual physical conditions of the prison cells were inhumane. Reports determined that both men were forced to live in tiny cells filled with other prisoners and were denied the ability to leave (Hopper, 2021). Unlike Western prisons, these detainment centres contain no communal spaces such as exercise yards or dining halls. Besides the confined, brutal living conditions, the two Micheals were also subject to psychological torment. The bright lighting of the cell was kept on during all hours of the day, allowing for little rest, and the two were treated to daily integrations by Chinese authorities (Nossal, 2021). The Chinese government’s mental and emotional abuses inflicted on Korvig and Spavor are unspeakable.

The arbitrary conditions that the Korvig and Spavor were subject to are gross inflictions on human rights. It has been a massive relief to have both men return home. However, it is important to acknowledge that these isolation conditions, physical confinement, and psychological abuse are not unique to the two Michaels. China has been detaining people in this brutal fashion long before the Korvig and Spavor were sentenced to prison there. The Chinese government will continue to act in such a manner until they face a firm international stance. No human being should be subject to such treatment.


Aziz, Saba. “ ‘Free at last’: Canadian Michael Korvig, wife speak about emotional return from China.” Global News, 26 Sep. 2021,


Coletta, Amanda. “Canada’s ‘two Michaels’ back home after more than 1,000 days imprisoned in China as Huawei’s Meng cuts deal with U.S.” The Washington Post, 25 Sep. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/09/24/canada-two-michaels-china-huawei/

Corera, Gordon. “Meng Wanzhou: Questions over Huawei executive’s arrest as legal battle continues.” BBC, 31 Oct. 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54756044

Hopper, Tristin. “No sunlight, a hole for a toilet: What two years in Chinese detention has been like for the two Michaels.” National Post, 19 Mar. 2021, https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/no-sunlight-a-hole-for-a-toilet-what-two-years-in-c hinese-detention-has-been-like-for-the-two-michaels

Karphal, Arjun. “The extradition trial of Huawei’s CFO starts this month – here’s what to watch.” CNBC, 9 Jan. 2020, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/10/huawei-cfo-meng-wanzhou-extradition-trial-explained. html

Nossal, Kim Richard. “Wrong place, wrong citizenship: The tribulations of the Two Michaels.” The Interpreter, 19 Jan. 2021, https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/wrong-place-wrong-citizenship-tribulations-t wo-michaels

Image Attribution: Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor after landing in Calgary and being greeted by Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau (image from The Globe and Mail)

The Xinjiang Conflict: a human rights issue worthy of greater international pressure

By: Lucas Khoo

Since 2017, at least 1 million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily interned in Xinjiang, China (PBS, 2019). Forcibly placed into what the Chinese government calls “Vocational Education and Training Centres”, Uyghurs are victims of racial discrimination, mass indoctrination, and as the U.S. recently declared, “genocide” (Axios, 2021). The Uyghur people are a Muslim minority group native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. The conflict between the Chinese government and the Uyghur people is a longstanding and complex one. Disagreement over who has official claim to the Xinjiang region, separatist sentiment amongst the Uyghur minority, and perpetual belligerence between the Han and Uyghur people has fuelled several conflicts: the 2009 Urumqi Riots which left over 197 people dead, the 2011 Hotan attack, and three other violent attacks in 2014. These types of conflicts have initiated a firm response by the Chinese Communist Party. Xi Jinping’s administration has taken a hard-line approach in addressing the separatist sentiment and terrorism which has been brewing in Xinjiang for many years. It is not wrong to curtail and deter terrorism, however, it is wrong to target an entire ethnic group and subject them to oppressive measures; this is exactly what is unfolding in Xinjiang. Concealing their governmental actions as part of an effort to combat terrorism, the Chinese government has unjustifiably persecuted and deprived thousands of Uyghurs of their human rights. It is difficult to tolerate the fact that approximately 1 million people have been stripped from their families, torn from their religion, and imprisoned because of their ethnicity. That population size alone outnumbers the respective city inhabitants of Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Vancouver. There is no place for arbitrary detention in the 21st century.

While it is important for the international community to maintain good relations with China, the severity of human rights abuses in Xinjiang merits greater international pressure. On March 22nd, 2021, the United States, Canada, Britain, and the European Union imposed sanctions against several Chinese officials (Politico). These sanctions were in direct response to the human rights abuses being committed in Xinjiang. This type of multilateral action against China is crucial; not only does it tangibly penalize the Chinese government, but it symbolizes a western coalition that will not tolerate human rights abuses. Hopefully, in placing pressure on the Chinese government, Chinese leaders will re-evaluate and stop their genocidal operations. The newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, has a great responsibility in the coming years. Being at the helm of U.S. foreign policy, Blinken must steadfastly defend the human rights of Uyghurs and make bold foreign policy decisions; perhaps no other man is in a better position to stand up against the Chinese government. Blinken has affirmed his view that “genocide” is being committed against the Uyghurs (CBS News, 2021). At his confirmation hearing, Blinken asserted that, “forcing men, women, and children into concentration camps, trying to in effect re-educate them to be in adherence to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party — speaks to an effort to commit genocide” (CBS News, 2021). Blinken’s future actions as secretary of state will be pivotal in the fight for human rights in Xinjiang. Canada has also responded to the ongoing human rights abuses in China. Just recently, Canada’s parliament reproached China for committing genocide in a motion which passed 266 to 0 (BBC, 2021). As with most other humanitarian crises, the Xinjiang Conflict has been met with political disagreement. The Chinese government still refutes any claims of wrongdoing or genocide. Multilateral efforts and verbal condemnation can only go so far, but it is a vital first step toward addressing the atrocities committed by China. Constant and persistent political pressure is needed to protect the human rights of millions of Uyghur people.

The greatly discomforting list of human rights abuses committed against the Uyghur people exceed arbitrary detainment. The Chinese government has been alleged of conducting forced abortions, compulsory sterilization, rape, and torture (Human Rights Watch, 2021). These harrowing crimes against humanity are well documented by reliable sources such as the BBC and Human Rights Watch. The suffering and plight of the Uyghur people may not be visible to most of us in western societies, but thousands of Uyghurs on a daily basis face a cruel reality. One in which they are abused, racialized, and subjugated. One in which fear is rampant and hope is diminished. This genocide can no longer go unnoticed. The United Nations and the rest of the international community must exert their powers to the fullest extent and alleviate the vicious oppression perpetrated by the Chinese government.   


Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany. “U.S. Declares China’s Actions against Uighurs ‘Genocide.’” Axios, January 19, 2021. https://www.axios.com/us-declares-china-actions-against-uyghurs-genocide-65e19e86-29ad-4c56-922f-d8a060aa2df8.html.

“‘Break Their Lineage, Break Their Roots.’” Human Rights Watch, Apr 19, 2021. www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/19/break-their-lineage-break-their-roots/chinas-crimes-against-humanity-targeting.

Brennan, Margaret, Christina Ruffini, and Camilla Schick. “With China’s Treatment of Muslim Uighurs Determined to Be Genocide, Biden Administration under Pressure to Act.” CBS News. CBS Interactive. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/china-treatment-of-muslim-uighurs-determined-to-be-genocide-biden-administration-under-pressure-to-act/.

“Canada’s Parliament Declares China’s Treatment of Uighurs ‘Genocide’.” BBC, February 23, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56163220.

Toosi, Nahal. “U.S., Allies Announce Sanctions on China over Uyghur ‘Genocide’.” POLITICO. POLITICO, March 22, 2021. https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/22/us-allies-sanctions-china-uighers-genocide-477434.

Wood, Bryan. “What Is Happening with the Uighurs in China?” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service. Accessed May 6, 2021. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/features/uighurs/.