Thousands in Hong Kong protest 'brainwash' education reform (PHOTOS)

A man holding a placard reading "we don't need no thought control" attends an anti Chinese patriotism classes protest outside of the government headquarters in Hong Kong on September 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Antony Dickson)
Just days before the start of the school year, tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the streets to protest what they believe is an attempt by authorities to 'brainwash' students.

­More than 40,000 people assembled outside government headquarters and demanded the cancellation of 'Chinese patriotism lessons' proposed for school curriculums.

Students and parents claim that these lessons, which would become compulsory by 2016, are an attempt to brainwash children with Chinese propaganda. The protesters demanded that Beijing respect Hong Kong's semi-autonomous status.

The program, which consists of general civics education as well as more controversial lessons on supporting the Chinese mainland, will be initiated in some primary schools in September and secondary schools in 2013.

The government claims that the classes are a way to nurture a sense of national identity and cohesion amid increasing levels of anti-Beijing sentiment.

It was the second mass demonstration against the proposed education reform in two months, after some 90,000 people took to the streets in July.

On Thursday, three students at a Hong Kong high school initiated a three-day hunger strike against the initiative, NewsAsia reported. The students, appearing pale and weak, said that the 'patriotism' curriculum should be removed from schools.

"We're here on hunger strike…because the government is not listening to the people's voice," Joshua Wong told Channel NewsAsia.

In a poll conducted by an association of men's and women's clubs, 74 percent of students and 77 percent of parents opposed the introduction of the classes into schools.

Student protestors stand on a stage (C) during an anti-Chinese patriotism classes protest outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on September 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Antony Dickson)
Student protestors stand on a stage (C) during an anti-Chinese patriotism classes protest outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on September 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Antony Dickson)
AFP Photo/Antony Dickson
AFP Photo/Antony Dickson
Student protestors stand on a stage during an anti Chinese patriotism classes protest outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on September 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Antony Dickson)
Student protestors stand on a stage during an anti Chinese patriotism classes protest outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on September 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Antony Dickson)
A pedestrian walks past a protest banner during an anti Chinese patriotism classes protest outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on September 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Antony Dickson)
A pedestrian walks past a protest banner during an anti Chinese patriotism classes protest outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on September 1, 2012. (AFP Photo/Antony Dickson)
Parents, teachers and children gather during a protest against a new Chinese national education course in Hong Kong September 1,2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
Parents, teachers and children gather during a protest against a new Chinese national education course in Hong Kong September 1,2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
A performer pours red paint over herself outside Tamar government headquarters during a protest against a new Chinese national education course in Hong Kong September 1, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
A performer pours red paint over herself outside Tamar government headquarters during a protest against a new Chinese national education course in Hong Kong September 1, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
(L-R) Kaiser, Lily Wing Lee-lee and Ivan Lam Long-yin nap during the sit-in protest where demonstrators camped at Tamar government headquarters in Hong Kong September 1, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
(L-R) Kaiser, Lily Wing Lee-lee and Ivan Lam Long-yin nap during the sit-in protest where demonstrators camped at Tamar government headquarters in Hong Kong September 1, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
A child takes part in a protest against a new Chinese national education course in Hong Kong September 1, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
A child takes part in a protest against a new Chinese national education course in Hong Kong September 1, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)