(NaturalNews) Do citizens of Hong Kong have a better understanding of what it means to be free than millions of Americans do these days? Given many of the changes to our society - and what more and more of us seem to be willing to put up with - the answer is yes.
Here's a case in point.
Recently, officials in Hong Kong backed off plans to force students there to take Chinese patriotism classes after a week of protests in the one-time British colony that were ignited over fears of pro-Beijing "brainwashing," the Associated Press reported.
The leader of the semi-autonomous city, Leung Chun-ying, said it will be up to schools to decide for themselves whether they want to hold the classes, which were on pace to become a mandatory part of curriculum in 2015 after a three-year voluntary period.
Anger and resentment over the classes have been mounting for months, the Post reported, stoked by fears that the classes were part of a plan by authorities in Beijing to indoctrinate the city's younger residents into unflinchingly supporting China's Communist Party, though Leung and other senior officials denied that.
'The China Model
China, you may recall, regained control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997 after more than 100 years of colonial rule. As part of the agreement, Hong Kong was allowed to retain a large amount of autonomy, a separate legal system and civil liberties not enjoyed in the rest of China, like freedom of speech.
Leung's change of heart came after a week of protests by thousands of people who massed in front of government headquarters to coincide with the beginning of a new school year. Organizers say as many as 120,000 people showed up to protest, but police put the number closer to 36,000, according to local news reports.
The decision came just a day before city legislature elections, in which voters were allowed for the first time to choose more than half the seats. Mounting opposition to the indoctrination plan was being seen as potentially undermining support for pro-Beijing candidates.
Protesters said they were concerned that the new subject matter was a thinly veiled attempt by the Chinese government to inculcate young people with nationalist education courses like those used in schools all over China to build support for the Asian giant's communist government.
Such fears only increased after a pro-Beijing education group published material earlier this year championing the virtues of one-party rule. Government officials stressed that the pamphlet, titled, "The China Model," was not a part of the mandated teaching materials.
The course curriculum guidelines called for instructing students about the accomplishments of Chinese political leaders, along with the contributions they've made to society and the difficulties and challenges they continue to face. Students would also learn how to "speak cautiously," practice self-discipline and to get along well with others in a responsible, rational and respective manner.
The controversy is just the latest sign of growing discomfort with mainland China's attempts at exerting more influence over the city. Residents of Hong Kong have also been miffed about stymied democratic development and a rise in the number of wealthy mainland residents gobbling up property and driving up prices.
Contrast this growing democracy movement with what is happening in the United States.
Increasingly, Americans seem more willing to embrace the Communist China ideals of government owning and running industry (GM, large banks), criminalization of public protests (if your point of view differs from the powers that be), the proliferation of police checkpoints, nullification of the Bill of Rights, efforts to disarm citizens or make it harder to protect yourself, and in the case of one man in Oregon, criminalizing ownership of rainwater.
Hong Kong residents are right to distrust the motives of China's one-party rulers. If only more Americans were as scrutinizing.