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Patriotic video foisted on Hong Kong

Hong Kong television stations have been ordered to broadcast a patriotic video each night, raising concerns about political autonomy promised to the territory after its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
A patriotic video that includes China's national anthem is seen on a TV screen in a Hong Kong restaurant on Tuesday.Anat Givon / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Hong Kong government has ordered television stations to run nightly broadcasts of a patriotic propaganda video, sparking worries that communist China is trying to indoctrinate the free-spirited territory.

The 45-second airing of China’s national anthem played over a montage of patriotic images has sparked more complaints than flag-waving in Hong Kong, where many of the 6.8 million residents remain leery of Beijing’s communist government after the territory was returned from Britain to China in 1997.

Some citizens called the video “disgusting” and said it reminded them of China’s bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement in Beijing on June 4, 1989, and the violent Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s.

Many Hong Kong residents revere China as their ancestral motherland, but those feelings have not translated into support for the mainland’s authoritarian political system. Beijing and its local allies often complain that Hong Kong residents have yet to become sufficiently patriotic Chinese citizens.

The video, titled “Our Home, Our Country,” was launched last week as Beijing celebrated the 55th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. It’s now being shown every evening before the news on three Chinese-language TV channels.

During the anthem, the video shows images of the first Chinese astronaut, China’s Olympic medalists, Chinese soldiers, Hong Kong children singing and some of the territory’s landmarks.

The Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority had received 13 complaints about the broadcasts as of Wednesday, spokeswoman Viola Kwan said.

Bad memories
“Some citizens said the video made them feel uncomfortable as it reminded them of the Cultural Revolution and the June 4 crackdown,” Kwan said. “Others said broadcasting the video every day is like brainwashing, and some said the video’s content was disgusting.”

The video was initiated by a government working group that advises the Home Affairs Bureau on national education, which can be taken to mean instilling patriotism.

The head of the group, Daniel Heung, said there was no intent to “brainwash” the public. Local TV stations have been required to run the video as part of their licensing arrangements that give the government control of some air time for civic education.

Home Affairs Bureau spokeswoman Carol Tang said the video will be shown for several months.

“We’ve heard both positive and negative comments about the video,” she said. “We’ll continue to monitor the public’s response.”

Broadcasters have had little to say about the matter.

“It’s nothing extraordinary,” said Winnie Ho, a spokeswoman for TVB. “Even under the British rule, we had to broadcast a video playing the British national anthem and the queen riding a horse when the station closed every night.”