Propaganda in Hong Kong: "If there are problems with the brain, then it needs to be washed"

Efforts by Beijing to brainwash Hong Kong children spark protests.

Thousands of people marched in Hong Kong on Sunday in protest against the Chinese government's plan to introduce what been branded by many as compulsory patriotism lessons.

The New York Times reports (£):

The new curriculum is similar to the so-called patriotic education taught in mainland China. The materials, including a handbook titled “The China Model,” describe the Communist Party as “progressive, selfless and united” and criticize multiparty systems, even though Hong Kong has multiple political parties.

Critics liken the curriculum to brainwashing and say that it glosses over major events like the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It will be introduced in some elementary schools in September and be mandatory for all public schools by 2016.

It's not just critics who have likened the curriculum to brainwashing, however. The Financial Times has an astonishing quote (£) from the chairman of the "China Civic Education Promotion Association", Jiang Yudui:

If there are problems with the brain, then it needs to be washed, just like dialysis for kidney patients.

The organisers estimated turnout at 90,000 (although authorities pegged it at 32,000), and it is just the latest in a series of increasingly well-attended protests against what are seen as attempts by mainland China to bring the special administrative region, which was transferred to Beijing in 1997 with the promise that it would retain with the promise it would its own legal system, money, borders, and, of course Olympic team, under its wing. The tone has not always been civil, as the FT adds:

Earlier this year, a group of Hong Kong citizens waged a campaign against mainland visitors – whose number reached 28m last year, or four times the city’s population – which included taking out incendiary full-page newspaper advertisements describing them as “locusts”.

Demonstrators display a banner reading 'withdraw brain washing education' in Hong Kong. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.