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Chinese launch patriotic tours

HONG KONG

Ten thousand children a year are to be taken on history tours of their Chinese "motherland" to increase their sense of patriotism towards Beijing.

At the same time, international schools are also increasing their links with China following the change of sovereignty.

The Chinese History and Culture Educational Foundation for Youth has been set up to organise the trips. It has the full approval of China's de facto representation in Hong Kong, the New China News Agency.

At the foundation's inauguration, Jiang Enzhu, director of the news agency's Hong Kong branch, said the tours would help Hong Kong's youth "to understand the present conditions and fine heritage of the motherland. Such visits will increase their understanding and deepen their feelings."

Annie Wu, who has launched the foundation, said students will visit such sites as Peking Man, the Great Wall and the sites of key conflicts with western powers. They will learn history and be exposed to Chinese arts. The tours will initially be targeted at secondary-school students.

Meanwhile, the English Schools Foundation, which has 15 schools in Hong Kong and was once the bastion of colonial education, is adapting its curriculum to make its pupils more aware of the local culture. It will also offer lessons in Mandarin to all its pupils by the year 2000.

So far, the language is taught in all its secondary schools and, as a pilot, three of its nine primaries. Other international schools, such as the Canadian International, have been making similar moves.

Jennifer Wisker, the ESF's chief executive, said that the introduction of Mandarin was not related to the transition to Chinese rule but was a response to parental demand.

"You have got to realise that these children are going to be working anywhere in the world. Being multi-lingual, and at home in west and east, will make them the ones people will most want to employ," said Ms Wisker.

Seventy per cent of ESF pupils are Asian, many of them Chinese returning from overseas.

Katherine Forestier

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