Starting this fall, schools in Hong Kong will display colorful new government-issued posters declaring that "freedom comes with responsibilities." Administrators may now call the police if anyone insults the Chinese national anthem on campus.
Students as young as kindergartners will be taught about a new national-security law that gives the authorities the power to quash opposition to Beijing with heavy prison sentences.
After months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, China's ruling Communist Party is reaching into the semiautonomous territory to overhaul an education system that it sees as having given rise to a generation of rebellious young people. The sweeping law Beijing imposed this month also targets Hong Kong's students, who have been a galvanizing force behind the protests.
Carrie Lam, the city's Beijing-backed leader, said at a forum Saturday that the arrests of more than 3,000 children and teenagers at protests exposed how the city's campuses had been penetrated by forces hostile to the local and central governments.
"Faced with such a severe situation with our young people, we can't help but ask, what is wrong with education in Hong Kong?" she said.
Lam said the schools' textbooks, classroom teaching and students' extracurricular activities reflected negative news media reporting about China and the "wanton discrediting of the government and police." Educating students about the new law, she said, would help them become more law-abiding.
The party's goal for the territory is clear: to foster a new generation of loyal and patriotic Hong Kong youths. It is a strategy of ideological control that it has wielded to great effect in the mainland, but could rapidly erode Hong Kong's reputation for academic freedom.
"Young kids will be brought up to understand and believe that without the Chinese Communist Party they have no future, that anything they have is because of the party," said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
Over the past year, images of students in neatly pressed school uniforms joining hands to form human chains have become among the most evocative symbols of the protest movement.
But campuses also have been the site of some of the movement's most violent scenes, such as at Polytechnic University, where protesters and police officers faced off in a prolonged fight with rubber bullets, firebombs and bows and arrows in November.
In forcing through the security law, Beijing has signaled that it has seen enough. On Wednesday, Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong's education secretary, barred students from singing the popular protest song "Glory to Hong Kong," displaying political slogans or forming human chains on campus.
Defenders of the law have argued that the city's academic freedom would remain untouched. But, they say, students and teachers should know that freedom of speech has limitations.
"You can't just allow teachers to talk, and impose their views, free-for-all," said Regina Ip, a Cabinet member who leads a pro-Beijing party in the legislature. "Critical thinking does not mean training people to criticize or attack."
Even before the law was enacted, the transformation of Hong Kong's education system was already underway.
The new school year had just started in September when Law Pei-lee, a teacher at a girls school, learned that a parent had filed a complaint about her conduct. She was accused of discussing the case of Lam Wing-kee, a bookstore owner who was kidnapped by Chinese security officials in 2015.
Law, a veteran teacher, said she had mentioned the incident in passing. But she said the education bureau repeatedly demanded an explanation. Though she was never officially punished, she said the monthslong investigation felt like "psychological torture."
Worse, Law said, she feared the law would stifle young minds. "Will our kids be able to think critically when they grow up?"