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Hong Kong's education authority has come under criticism for organizing a tour of Mao Zedong's hometown of Shaoshan, Hunan Province, for the region's high school students with some commentators suggesting its part of a plan to indoctrinate local youth.|
The education authority spent HK$1 million ($128,900) on the tour for 450 students who were charged only HK$939 for the trip from July 14-18.
The students visited Mao Zedong's former residence, memorial museum and relics museum in Shaoshan and took photos in front of Mao Zedong's statue. They also visited some ancient buildings of the Song (960-1279) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties and local enterprises.
The Hong Kong education authority was criticized for wasting public funds on "brainwashing national education activity," according to the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily.
Political commentator Willy Lam was quoted by the Apple Daily as saying the trip was aimed at deifying Mao Zedong.
The Apple Daily report illogically demonizes the national education program by suggesting it is a brainwashing activity, according to a commentary in the Ta Kung Pao.
The commentary also said most high school students in Hong Kong have little knowledge of the Chinese mainland, and such visits will broaden their understanding.
Cheng Wing-cheong from Hong Kong education authority told the China News Service that such visits are aimed at improving the knowledge of Hong Kong residents, especially youth, of the mainland by helping them understand the country's development, history and culture.
Wang Hongcai, a professor at Xiamen University, told the Global Times that a visit to Mao's museum is a good way to enhance the students' sense of national identity.
"It is important to let Hong Kong students know Mao Zedong's great contribution to the country's independence," Wang said, adding that once the students understand more about the country's achievements they will have a stronger sense of national pride.
There are historical reasons why some Hong Kong adults oppose local youths visiting Mao's birthplace, said Zhang Dinghuai, a professor at the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute at Shenzhen University.
"They have different feelings toward national education, because they have different education backgrounds," Zhang told the Global Times.
Zhang suggested activities that are less political may be more acceptable to Hong Kongers.
Some Hong Kong residents are calling on Hong Kong authorities to cancel a trial patriotic education course set to begin this Septebmer that will use a 34-page textbook, aiming to equip students in the special administrative region with patriotic knowledge.