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Thousands in Hong Kong protest China's influence on new school curriculum

Kin Cheung / AP

Thousands of protesters turn out outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on Sept. 7. Parents, teachers and pupils along with activists in the former British colony continued their protest against the government's plan to introduce a new subject "Moral and National Education" into a new curriculum, starting from new school year.

Philippe Lopez / AFP - Getty Images

A child holds a sign as protesters sit near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong on Sept. 7, during a protest against plans to introduce Chinese patriotism classes.

Tyrone Siu / Reuters

A man gets his head shaved as a sign of protest during a demonstration against the launch of national education outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on Sept. 7.

Reuters -- Protests in Hong Kong ahead of an election on Sunday are posing a major test for the city's new leader as voter discontent fueled by anger over perceived meddling by Beijing threatens to shake up the political landscape.

This time round, Hong Kong's legislature will have a more democratic flavor - it has been expanded from 60 to 70 seats, with just over half of them to be directly elected.

But the results are likely to reflect a recent upsurge in anti-China sentiment, which has been exacerbated by a plan for a school curriculum extolling the achievements of the Chinese Communist Party.

Thousands of people have demonstrated outside government headquarters for the past week demanding the school program be scrapped, forcing Leung Chun-ying to cancel what was to have been his first major international engagement as Hong Kong's leader at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Russia.

On Friday evening, the crowds swelled further as tens of thousands of ordinary citizens, many dressed in black, denounced the curriculum as Communist Party propaganda which glossed over the darker aspects of Chinese rule, hitting a nerve in the former British colony that remains proud of its freedoms 15 years after London handed it over to Beijing.

"I am really scared (about) this national education," said a retired fireman in the crowd with his five-year-old grandson. "They really aren't talking the truth. They are telling a lie to the children."

The protests have included hunger strikes and the parading of a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue which was erected in Beijing's Tiananmen Square during the 1989 demonstrations and crackdown.

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Tyrone Siu / Reuters

Thousands protest against the launch of national education in schools outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on Sept. 7.

Kin Cheung / AP

Mother ties a black ribbon on her son's arm to demand withdrawal of the national education plan at a primary school in Hong Kong, on Sept. 7.

Kin Cheung / AP

Students show the placards reading "Withdraw" during a demonstration outside government headquarters in Hong Kong, on Sept. 7.

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