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Hong Kong to teach children as young as six about subversion

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Hong Kong to teach children as young as six about subversion

HONG KONG – Hong Kong has unveiled controversial guidelines for schools in the Chinese-ruled city that include teaching students as young as six about colluding with foreign forces and subversion as part of a new national security curriculum.

Beijing imposed a security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 in response to months of often violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019 that put the global financial hub more firmly on an authoritarian path.

The Education Bureau’s guidelines, released late on Thursday, show that Beijing’s plans for the semi-autonomous Hong Kong go beyond quashing dissent and aim for a societal overhaul to bring its most restive city more in line with the Communist Party-ruled mainland.

“National security is of great importance. Teachers should not treat it as if it is a controversial issue for discussion as usual,” the guidelines said.

Teachers should “clearly point out that safeguarding national security is the responsibility of all nationals and that as far as national security is concerned, there is no room for debate or compromise”.

After the 2019 protests in which many of the demonstrators were teenagers, Chinese leaders turned to re-education in a bid to tame the city’s youth and make them loyal citizens.

Head of the Professional Teachers’ Union, Ip Kin-yuen, said the guidelines would cause “uncertainty, ambiguity and anxiety” for teachers and enforce a “restrictive and suppressive” education style that does not foster student development and independent thinking.

Raymond Yeung, a former teacher partially blinded by a projectile during 2019 protests, described the guidelines as “one dimensional, if not brainwashing”.

Wong, mother of primary school children, said the law was “clamping down on people’s individual thoughts” and adding national security to the curricula created a climate of fear.

“I am angry. They shouldn’t be bringing this into classrooms,” said Wong, who declined to give her first name due to the sensitivity of the issue.

However, not all parents were opposed to the changes.

“It’s a good start, no matter who you are and where are you from, you have to love your country,” said Feng, mother of a six-year-old.

Wise owl’

Children in primary schools will learn how to sing and respect China’s national anthem and gain an understanding of the four main offences in the new security law, including terrorism and secessionism.

In secondary schools, pupils will learn what constitutes such offences, which can carry sentences of up to life in prison.

Some legal scholars have said the law’s language is broad and vague and the range of activities authorities might see as potential threats to national security was unclear and fluid.

An educational cartoon video released by the government shows an owl wearing glasses and a graduation hat explaining Hong Kong’s institutional architecture, its duties to the central government in Beijing and the national security law.

At one point the video says “national security affairs are of utmost importance to the whole country,” while showing smiling faces of a student, a chef and an engineer.

Schools are encouraged to “organise various game activities, such as puppet theatre, board games … to establish a good atmosphere and improve students’ understanding of national security”, according to the guidelines.

The guidelines said kindergartens can help students learn about traditional festivals, music and arts and develop fondness for Chinese customs to “lay the foundation for national security education”. Kindergarten children were not expected to learn about national security crimes.

The Education Bureau said it accepted international and private schools had different curricula, but said they had a “responsibility to help their students (regardless of their ethnicity and nationality) acquire a correct and objective understanding … of national security”.

Schools should also stop students and teachers from participating in activities deemed as political, such as singing certain songs, wearing various items, forming human chains or shouting slogans.

Teachers and principals are required to inspect notice-boards, remove books that endanger national security from libraries and call police if they suspected any breaches.

The bureau said national security education will become part of subjects such as geography and biology to enhance students’ sense of national identity.

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California coronavirus vaccination site gives thousands wrong vaccine dosage

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California coronavirus vaccination site gives thousands wrong vaccine dosage

An estimated 4,300 in California individuals received a smaller coronavirus vaccine than they should have due to an issue with syringes.

According to KTVU, the Oakland Coliseum site received orange-capped syringes that left a third of the vaccine stuck on the bottom of the plastic container. The problem was eventually detected on Monday but individuals vaccinated before that point reportedly only received 0.2 mL of the Pfizer vaccine instead of the optimal 0.3 mL.

The California Office of Emergency Services, which helps run the site with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said high-level meetings were held on Tuesday afternoon after whistleblowers alerted the issue.

Cal OES spokesman Brian Ferguson reportedly said he didn’t think anyone was formally underdosed and that there wasn’t any need to contact the individuals who received the lower vaccine amount.

On Wednesday, he said authorities were told that the dosing fell within medical guidelines and protocols.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert, reportedly said the patients were “likely protected” and could make up the lost dosage in the second round of vaccine dosing.

The incident came as Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed optimism over the state’s vaccination efforts.

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EU wants employers to report pay levels to fix gender gap

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EU wants employers to report pay levels to fix gender gap

BRUSSELS — The European Union executive wants to force employers to be much more open about how much their staff earn to make it easier for women to challenge wage imbalances and close the gender pay gap.

Even though the gender pay gap across the 27-nation bloc has been reduced to 14 percent for people doing exactly the same work, the European Commission wants to eliminate the disparity by imposing specific rules to make pay levels public.

“For equal pay, you need transparency. Women must know whether their employers treat them fairly,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Since its inception in 1957, the European Union has sought to end such gender bias, but progress has been slow over the decades. When it comes to pension rights, reflecting working conditions of the past 30 to 40 years, the gender gap still stands at 30 percent.

Wage conditions and scales in Europe have long been shrouded in secrecy, which has helped extend inequality and proved to be a big hurdle for those demanding pay justice.

And companies have fallen far short in helping bridge the gap, said EU Vice President Vera Jourova. “We have sufficiently strong evidence that we need to have binding rules and not only to rely on social responsibility of the companies because we see that it doesn’t lead anywhere,” she said.

She said that over the past 7 years, the gap had closed only by little over 2 percentage points. “You can imagine if we continue like that, we will achieve pay fairness some time in several decades. So we cannot continue like that.”

Under the commission’s proposals, employers would have to give information about initial pay levels in the vacancy announcement and ahead of the job interview, during which employers will not be allowed to ask about applicants’ previous pay grades.

Employees will be allowed to ask employers the average pay levels by gender for people doing the same work.

And to put more pressure on big companies, the proposal forces firms with more than 250 employees to publish information about any gender pay gap.

If women remain underpaid, the commission wants them to be able to get back pay and it wants the burden of proof to be on employers, not the women challenging them.

The European Trade Union Confederation lauded the intent but said the proposals lacked teeth to force companies into decisive action. It complained that small- and medium-size companies, where such discrimination often happens, were excluded from key elements of the enforcement.

The proposal now goes to the European Parliament and EU countries for further discussion before it can be approved.

The announcement came ahead of International Women’s Day next Monday.

The EU noted that women had been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, many having to add more home tasks to their work schedule because of the closure of schools and day care centers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only consolidated injustices and inequalities that already existed in our societies, it is also likely to wipe out decades of achievements by women, on progresses in the labor market,” said European Parliament President David Sassoli.

Jourova said women were vulnerable because most were still at the bottom of the pay scale.

“That over-representation in lower-paid sectors and occupations such as, for instance, hospitality, retail or personal services has made them particularly vulnerable in the labor market struck by the COVID-19 crisis,” Jourova said.

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Hundreds mourn Myanmar’s ‘Everything will be OK’ protester

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Hundreds mourn Myanmar's 'Everything will be OK' protester

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Myanmar on Thursday for the funeral of a 19-year-old protester shot and killed at a demonstration against military rule.

Angel, also known as Kyal Sin, was shot in the head and killed in the city of Mandalay on Wednesday while wearing a shirt bearing the message “Everything will be OK”.

Mourners, many of them young like her, filed past her open coffin and sang protest songs, raised a three-fingered salute of defiance and chanted slogans against the Feb. 1 military coup that has plunged the country into turmoil.

Angel was one of 38 people killed on Wednesday, according to a United Nations tally. A spokesman for the junta did not respond to a request for comment on the killings.

Sai Tun, 32, who attended the funeral, said he could not come to terms with what had happened to her.

“We feel so angry about their inhuman behaviour and really sad at the same time,” he told Reuters by telephone.

“We’ll fight dictatorship until the end. We must prevail.”

Despite the slogan on her shirt, Angel was aware of the risk as she headed out to the protest, posting details of her blood group, a contact number and a request to donate her body in the event of her death.

The phrase on the shirt quickly went viral on social media among opponents of the coup.

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