A protester throws a tear gas grenade at police on Sunday. (Photo: Global Times)
"The thing I disapprove of the most is their saying 'I'm not Chinese,'" said Lun Yeung (pseudonym), 60, who was born and grew up in Hong Kong and whose father was from South China's Guangdong Province.
Lun's wife asked their three children: "I am Chinese, but you say that you are not Chinese. Then who are you? I really don't understand you!"
"Didn't the police hit anyone?" Lun's children asked him.
"If you don't assault the police, how can the police hit you?" Lun replied.
Such scenes of conflict have become common in many Hong Kong families over the past two months.
Hong Kong has been plunged into shock by the ongoing protests, which have seen many young people taking to the streets and behaving radically. Last Saturday marked the 12th straight weekend of protests, when black-clad young protesters illegally occupied roads at Kwun Tong while a group of patriotic local residents came to the headquarters of Radio Television Hong Kong to protest against its biased coverage.
But the confrontation has now extended into Hong Kong families, and sown divisions between elderly members who pin their hopes on Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, and the younger generation who initiated the street protests under the influence of Western ideologies.
The chaos is a reflection of a lack of comprehensive historical and proper national education in Hong Kong. Some biased Hong Kong media reports and one-sided Western media coverage have also contributed to young people's hostile feelings toward the government, said experts.
Supporting the police
Lun supports the enforcement efforts of the Hong Kong police in accordance with the law. However, three of Lun's children, who are aged between 20 and 30, support the protesters.
Lun told the Global Times that he has discussed the recent protests with his children, but they either argue with him or do not answer him.
"In short, if I'm not on their side, they ignore me. I've told them that some of their demands are unreasonable, but they will not listen to me. They have their own ideas," Lun said.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor previously said the extradition bill is "dead."
"The HK government has announced that the bill is dead, so why do you insist that they must announce that it is withdrawn? Is there any difference between 'dead' and 'withdrawn?'" Lun asked his three children.
The other unreasonable demand, in Lun's view, is that protesters are asking not to be defined as rioters and are seeking immunity from punishment.
"The whole world can see that you are rioting, and the government has admitted that people who do not act violently won't be defined as rioters. But violent protesters will be charged as such," Lun said.
"If the large number of participants could be a reason to get immunity, then what is the point of the law?" he asked.
Although Lun doesn't object to lawful protests, he cannot bring himself to support this particular protest, as he believes that its demands are misguided.
"I definitely don't approve of assault, because violence puts everyone in danger. I will never allow my children to commit assault. It's too dangerous," Lun said.
Lun has witnessed the development of Hong Kong from a British colony to China's special administrative region.
When Hong Kong was a colony, talking about politics was more or less forbidden, and people definitely could not object to laws implemented by the British colonial government, Lun recalled.
"Moreover, we all had difficulties in life in the old days, and had no time to talk about politics. We were all busy working hard for a better life," Lun said.
"Even though I was born in British colonial Hong Kong, I did not accept being a British second-class citizen. I am still a Chinese, as my father and teachers told me when I was young," Lun said.
But the young people have never suffered from poverty, so they don't value the prosperous and stable life they have today. They have lived well for so long that they take it for granted, Lun said.
Misguided by media
Tsang Hin-ming, a 56-year-old man from Hong Kong who lives in Wong Tai Sin district, is slightly less worried than Lun, as his 30-year-old daughter takes a relatively neutral stance on the protests.
However, Tsang is still dismayed and distressed to see so many young people in Hong Kong taking part in violent demonstrations.
"I am afraid that my business and life will be impacted by violent protesters," Tsang said.
Tsang has been decorating the glass facades of buildings since he was 17 years old.
He was involved in the construction of the Shanghai Union Friendship Tower in 1980s, which was China's first building with a glass curtain wall structure and also the first high-rise foreign-related business office building after the reform and opening-up.
Tsang told the Global Times that he supports the Hong Kong police and is eager for a return to social stability in Hong Kong.
"Why do you go to the protests?" Tsang asked two young workers in his construction team aged 23 and 27. They answered that they want freedom.
"Don't you have freedom now?" Tsang continued.
They could not answer, Tsang said.
"Most young people are misled by some of the biased media from Hong Kong or Western countries," Tsang told the Global Times.
He found that many biased Hong Kong media outlets exaggerate minor problems on the Chinese mainland, sometimes suggesting that a minor incident that happened in one part of China occurs frequently all over the country.
Young people in Hong Kong who don't know much about the mainland believe these fake news to be true. They have gone from worrying that Hong Kong will become like this depiction of the Chinese mainland to opposing China and wanting independence for Hong Kong, Tsang explained.
"When I was hospitalized in 2016, I talked to doctors and nurses about enjoying hot springs in Guangdong Province. They were very surprised, and asked me if I was worried that it would be dirty?"
These highly educated Hong Kong youths' understanding of the mainland is still stuck in the 1980s, Tsang said.
"Chinese mainland media should have shown young people in Hong Kong the real situation, as soon as the rumors appeared," Tsang said.
Controls on education
The education system in Hong Kong is also misleading the youth by discouraging them from identifying themselves as Chinese, Lun told the Global Times.
"There is no patriotic education in Hong Kong, and Chinese history is not included as a separate curriculum, so students only learn a little bit of Chinese history," Lun said.
It would be no use even if there was patriotic education, as most teachers dislike the mainland due to influence of online fake news, and they convey this idea to their students, Lun explained.
During British rule in Hong Kong, the region's local history was rarely covered in textbooks, while only its history under British governance was presented. Links between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland were deliberately cut in Hong Kong's primary and secondary education system, Zhang Lingyun, a senior reporter for Phoenix TV in Hong Kong, wrote in a personal observation piece.
The British imposed strict controls on education in Hong Kong and banned political activities in schools. After the signing of the Sino-British joint declaration in 1984, the British authorities realized that their era was about to end. They then attempted to accelerate civic education in Hong Kong, and started to infuse political ideologies such as democracy, freedom, equality and human rights into local education just a few years before its return, according to Zhang.
The British cultivated an obedient civic mindset during their colonial rule, and preached democracy and human rights through legislation and education when they were ready to withdraw, Zhang concluded.
She is also the mother of a middle school student in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, the influence of education groups backed by anti-mainland opposition is overwhelming.
Such groups represented by the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers are also politically powerful and provocative, she observed.
In 2013, the federation supported the Occupy Central Movement and compiled education materials to induce young students to participate in the illegal occupation. During the current anti-extradition bill protest, it repeatedly produced a biased revised textbook covering the bill issue for its member teachers to use, and also called on secondary school teachers to hold a strike against the bill, according to Zhang.
It is easy for influenced teachers to drum their ideas into their students' minds, leaving those who disagree with them marginalized, isolated, and even bullied, Zhang told the Global Times.
Tsang felt sorry for the secondary school students who were brought to the demonstrations by their teachers.
"How can these young children understand politics?" Tsang wondered.
"A high school student told me that they didn't want to attend the protest, but he was afraid of being bullied and excluded in class if he didn't go," Tsang said.
After entering university, students tend to be easily influenced by their radical peers, some of whom are active in the street movement in Hong Kong. They bring politics into the campus, inciting other students to boycott classes and even attack the principal and teachers, according to Zhang.
Blind opposition to the government has become increasingly prevalent and politically correct among Hong Kong's young people, she said.
Today's Hong Kong youth have grown up in an educational atmosphere filled with prejudiced political stances and Westernized ideologies, which is largely attributed to the absence of Chinese history and misrepresentation of protest in some local and Western media reports, experts suggest.