The ruling Chinese Communist Party is planning to send primary, secondary, and kindergarten teachers from schools in Hunan, Anhui and other provinces to Hong Kong to conduct "teaching instruction," RFA has learned.
The ministry of education in Beijing plans to send some 60 "teaching instructors" from Hunan, Hainan, Anhui,and Liaoning provinces to schools in Hong Kong and the former Portuguese enclave of Macau, mainly in the subject areas of history and language.
The plan is detailed in directives posted to official websites by provincial education bureaus in Hunan, Hainan, and Shanxi.
The teachers are being sent to teach patriotic education to schoolchildren in the two cities, according to online recruitment notices.
The program has been under way for some time, but is attracting renewed concerns as Beijing gears up to impose draconian national security legislation on Hong Kong following months of mass anti-government and pro-democracy protests, according to the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper.
The Hunan directive was issued to education authorities in Changsha, Hengyang, Zhuzhou, and Chenzhou cities of April 4, ordering them to recruit teachers to spend a year in Hong Kong and Macau over the next three years.
Their duties will include "preparing lessons, observing classes, evaluating courses and conducting teaching demonstrations ...evaluating teaching materials and teacher training," the notice said.
"Please select excellent teachers with strong political stances, rich teaching experience, outstanding business skills, and good coordination and cooperative skills," the directive said.
Hunan -- the birthplace of late supreme leader Mao Zedong -- has been selected as one of a number of revolutionary and patriotic education hubs in a pilot scheme under President Xi Jinping, the Apple Daily said.
Following the party line
Sources told RFA that the plan makes sense if Beijing intends to "re-educate" the people of Hong Kong to toe the party line from an early age.
"They are staking out territory in the realm of education, which means they are catching them young, and instilling ideas into them that the Chinese authorities find acceptable," a teacher from the central city of Henan told RFA on Tuesday.
The recruitment drive comes amid a public outcry at Beijing's plans to impose a draconian sedition and subversion law on Hong Kong, bypassing the city's legislature, claiming that anti-government protesters had engaged in "terrorist activities" in recent months.
Beijing revealed plans on May 21 to send its feared state security agents into Hong Kong to pursue people suspected of "sedition," "subversion," or of doing the work of 'foreign forces' during the city's months-long protest movement.
In a move that many say signals the end of Hong Kong's promised autonomy and traditional freedoms of speech and association, state security police from mainland China will be allowed to set up shop in Hong Kong to fulfill their duties under the new law, according to a precis of the decision supplied by state-run Xinhua news agency.
A statement from 253 parliamentarians and policymakers from 29 countries on Tuesday issued a statement condemning the plan.
"This is a comprehensive assault on the city's autonomy, rule of law, and fundamental freedoms," the statement, led by former UK foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind and former Hong Kong government Chris Patten, now Lord Patten of Barnes, said.
"It is the genuine grievances of ordinary Hong Kongers that are driving protests," the statement said. "Draconian laws will only escalate the situation further, jeopardising Hong Kong’s future as an open Chinese international city."
Rifkind said the national security law was "the most serious threat to the people of Hong Kong ... since 1997," when the former British colony was handed back to China.
Lam rejects criticism
But chief executive Carrie Lam dismissed international criticisms on Tuesday.
"No country would allow an important matter like national security to be flawed in any way," Lam said. "Hong Kong has not been able to legislate locally in 23 years and, as I have mentioned before, in the foreseeable future it would be difficult for us to go for local legislation. That is why the NPC is taking responsible action [to legislate]," Lam said.
National security legislation has been shelved in the city since 2003 after mass protests on the streets shocked visiting Chinese officials.
But China's People's Liberation Army (PLA), which is entirely under the control of the ruling party, now says it stands ready to enforce the legislation.
Hong Kong garrison commander Chen Daoxiang said, in comments reported by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday, that “[The garrison] will implement, according to law, various tasks delegated by the party and the people, and has the determination, confidence and ability to safeguard national security and development interest as well as Hong Kong’s continuing prosperity."
Pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung said Chen was promising to enforce a law that should be an internal matter for Hong Kong.
"This is in breach of the spirit of the Garrison Law," Yeung said. "The troops stationed in Hong Kong should stick to the principle of non-interference in Hong Kong's affairs."
Hebei scholar Zhang Fengshu said that, far from wielding "a high degree of autonomy," Lam's administration is now effectively a puppet government under the direct control of Beijing.
"Actually, the [state security police] have been operating in Hong Kong for a long time, but this hasn't been made public," Zhang said. "Now they are looking to go public and legalize [these operations]."
Proposed law widely condemned
The proposed national security law has been widely condemned by foreign governments and rights groups as a breach of China's obligations under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-registered treaty governing the handover.
Rights groups said the law will mean Beijing can ensure that only voices and activities that toe the party line will be allowed in Hong Kong, which was promised a continuation of its traditional freedoms of the person, publication, and association under the handover agreement.
The proposed legal move comes at a time when the U.S. is reviewing, under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, whether to continue to treat Hong Kong as a separate jurisdiction from China, given Beijing's growing insistence on wielding direct political power in the city.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.