Updated: Assignment based on pro-China film trailer pulled from Richmond classroom

A Richmond high school removed an assignment based on a pro-China film trailer after an outcry on Facebook by Hong Kong supporters.

A pro-Hong Kong Facebook group asked parents to complain to the Richmond School District after Steveston-London students watched movie trailers from the film, My People, My Country, made by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and distributed internationally to mark the PRC’s 70th anniversary in September. The group claimed the film violates the rights of “other ethnic groups.”

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Students in three Mandarin classes at Steveston-London watched the YouTube trailers.

The administrator for the group “Hongkongers in Vancouver,” which has several thousand members, told the Richmond News that the information was received from a group member.

The post, flagged Thursday on Twitter, describes the movie, and asks “why do these students need to watch (a) movie that defines China as a motherland?”

The post ends with this message: “Parents from Vancouver and Richmond, please complain to the local school board and the school principal, this Mandarin class course has violated the rights of other ethnic groups....”

The principal, Carol-Lyn Sakata, asked the teacher to stop using the worksheet, meant for oral practise, about the film trailers and the teacher planned to give the students another assignment instead.

Sakata wrote a letter to parents in the Grade 10 to 12 Mandarin classes saying there was concern over the “controversial and political nature of the film,” with some critics calling it a pro-China propaganda film.

“This has brought to my attention how schools must continue to be sensitive to the resources we use in our classrooms,” Sakata wrote.

According to a column published by Edward Liu in local Chinese language newspaper Sing Tao Daily on Oct. 27, he said it’s not appropriate to let students watch the trailer in class.

“Canada is a country of multiculturalism, but multiculturalism doesn’t mean multi-nationalism. Since the film is dedicated to the founding of the People’s Republic of China, how much movie content has reflected Chinese culture?” asked Liu. 

The Richmond School Board should provide the public further explanation, as well as better education for the teacher, Liu added.

Dennis Wang, however, a Steveston-London graduate, said labelling the showing of a patriotic film in class as brainwashing seems a bit over the top. 

“Chinese culture and identity in this day and age are very much intertwined with some sense of patriotism (some may call nationalism), whether supported by the CCP or not,” said Wang.

“I am sure we all have the critical thinking ability to differentiate our opinions from that of a film.”

Richmond superintendent Scott Robinson didn’t respond to requests for an interview.

However, a written statement from the district’s communications office said the intent of the class was to engage students in an “informal and open discussion” to “analyze personal, shared, and others’ perspectives, and worldviews through a cultural lens,” as described by the curriculum for Mandarin classes.

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