Beijing [China]: Ten years ago, thousands of Hong Kong students took to the streets to protest against proposed curriculum changes, which they believed were designed to brainwash and push critical thinking out of the classroom, but surprisingly, now their schools have become more patriotic.
Books are part of China’s effort to instil a particular historical narrative and to stress patriotic education in a city. In new textbooks, it was written Hong Kong was “occupied” but never a “British colony”, according to the Washington Post.
Under China’s principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong initially retained its education system when it came under Chinese rule in 1997 and lacked the focus on mainland “national security” dedicated to building national identities and patriotism.
The most notable change in Hong Kong came on New Year’s Eve when primary and secondary schools began holding weekly ceremonies to raise the Chinese Communist Party’s flag.
And these all changes began shortly after the national security law was imposed in Hong Kong in 2020 that banned protests in the city for one year and urged campus schools to promote “national security,” reported The Washington Post.
Carrie Lam, the CEO at the time, said many students participated in pro-democracy protests. The promise to do more to popularize national education and instil patriotism in young people was something Beijing wanted.
Christine Choi, one of the officials responsible for the failed 2012 education overhaul, will be taking over the education department in July and has said one of her key goals is to foster a sense of national identity among young people.
Publishers have developed such textbooks that fit in the Chinese government’s favourite narrative in which Britain was an occupying power in Hong Kong and the Communist Party a benevolent force, while the homegrown struggle for democracy never existed. At least four new textbooks sent to Hong Kong’s schools for pre-publication review no longer call Hong Kong “a colony” but an occupied territory.
“Even though Hong Kong was occupied by the British after the Opium War, it is still a territory belonging to China,” according to The Washington Post citing a textbook released by Hong Kong publisher Modern Educational Research Society.
The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which Chinese forces cracked down on a month-long pro-democracy demonstration in Beijing, was included in textbooks in 2014.
In one of the Chinese History textbooks, it was reduced to a paragraph, with no photograph or there was no mention of the annual damages or kidnapping ever held in Hong Kong.
Beijing is “re-engineering Hong Kong education in full force,” said Ho-Fung Hung, a professor of political economy at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s turning a subject that used to cultivate critical thinking into mainland-style patriotic education inculcating the party line to children,” the professor added.
Lo Kit-ling, a secondary school teacher, said front-line teachers found the guidelines unclear and said there was a pervasive “sense of helplessness” among colleagues.
“We are still observing and tend to act conservatively and censor ourselves more because we do not want to violate the security law,” she said, adding that in the current atmosphere, parents are encouraged to file complaints against teachers.
“It seems like Hong Kong’s education system is a train that goes backwards,” Lo added. (ANI)