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China’s patriotic education law a bad news for ethnic minority areas

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan06’24) – China ushered in the year 2024 with the implementation of its Patriotic Education Law, which was adopted by its rubberstamp parliament in Oct 2023. The sweeping new law aims to get families, schools, companies, international institutions, and especially religious centres and ethnic minority areas, to deepen patriotism in the Communist Party of China (CPC)-state.

In particular, the law is seen as being directed at cracking down on people embracing ideas of liberal democracy and human rights. In the case of ethnic minority regions, it will give a new fillip to the ongoing assimilation drive being carried out in the name of Sinicization of religion, education, and so forth.

Under the new law, schools must include patriotic education in their curriculum, while companies must do so in their operations, such as business management and staff training. Parents should also “include love of the motherland in family education”, says the law.

Besides, measures will be taken to strengthen patriotism among residents in Hong Kong and Macau, beef up publicity and education on unifying China, and strengthening communication with overseas Chinese and Taiwan residents, noted the straitstimes.com Jan 4.

As in the case of schools, the new law requires religious groups and places of religious activities to conduct patriotic education, with the aim to strengthen national awareness among clergy and believers and guide religions to align with socialist society, noted the voanews.com Jan 5.

Late last month, on Christmas Eve, China’s top political adviser, Wang Huning, delivered a stern message to Christian leaders, urging “strict” management of religious affairs and unwavering allegiance to the Communist Party’s vision for Christianity, the report noted.

Outlining a clear vision for the future of Christianity in China, Wang has made it clear that religious leaders must “adhere to the direction of Sinicization of Christianity.”

The Sinicization campaign applies, of course, to all religions and, all the more, to the ethnic minority areas where the focus will be on assimilation.

Besides, under the new law, insulting national symbols such as China’s flag, emblem and the country’s heroes and martyrs will attract punishment.

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Assistant Professor Dylan Loh at the Nanyang Technological University’s Public Policy and Global Affairs programme has said the law came about as the CPC had “identified risks, particularly among some disenfranchised and politically apathetic youths”.

“It is clearly unacceptable to depart from CPC hagiography and ideology, such as embracing Western ideas of democracy, freedom of speech.

“But now it is increasingly a problem for the party that people don’t care and want to make as much money as possible. That, seen through the party’s eyes, is also equally threatening for the legitimacy and longevity of the party,” the straitstimes.com report quoted the China expert as saying.

The report noted that reactions to the new law have been mixed, with netizens leaving both supportive comments and questions on whether love for a country should be enforced.

Some netizens have also taken a dig at party officials with family members who have migrated to the United States or are currently studying there, and asked if that is patriotism.

Some parents have expressed concern that students’ learning will be affected by the changes.

A parent in Beijing, named only as Mrs Fan, has said she was concerned that any changes will “affect the development of critical thinking skills in schools”; that schools may not allow probing questions about Chinese history.

Even Mr Li Yong, 42, a project manager at a state-owned enterprise and who supports the new law, sees a downside in the changes, saying, “I guess if there’s one thing I’m worried about, it is that the new law will mean more homework for my daughter. She is busy enough at school.”

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