Gratitude education 感恩教育 has been an integral part of educational and Party-sponsored public campaigns in mainland China since the 1990s. It forms part of the Chinese government’s mandated patriotic education program for Chinese students. First introduced at schools in the 1980s, patriotic education was widened to include universities after 1989, following the government’s violent suppression of the university student-led democracy movement at Tiananmen Square on 4 June that year.
A relatively innocuous form of gratitude education requires school students to formally express gratitude to their parents and teachers. The gratitude education imposed on Tibetan people is far more sinister. Following the government’s crackdown on street protests in Tibet in 2008, Tibetans have been required periodically to publicly express their gratitude to the Party for providing for their daily needs. They must also criticise the Dalai Lama.
Gratitude education requires people to attest that they ‘feel the Party’s kindness and obey and follow the Party’ 感党恩听党话跟党走. The video footage showing Liu Xiaobo thanking prison wardens was intended to demonstrate that he too was touched by the ‘Party’s kindness’. Incensed by international sympathy for Liu, the state-controlled Global Times sought to educate its Anglophone readership on the ‘Party’s kindness’. In an editorial of 28 June 2017, the paper stated that ‘Liu is an ordinary prisoner. He ought to be grateful for extra help from the prison authorities, but he and his supporters have no right to demand preferential treatment.’