26 March 2019
(From left) Lee Ming-kwai, Rita Fan, Tsang Tak-sing and Leung Kee-cheong are among the directors of the new center. Photo: HKEJ
(From left) Lee Ming-kwai, Rita Fan, Tsang Tak-sing and Leung Kee-cheong are among the directors of the new center. Photo: HKEJ

Online site for students blacks out Chinese civil war, Tiananmen

A new website designed to promote knowledge of Chinese history and culture among Hong Kong students will steer clear of two crucial episodes in China’s modern history.

It will avoid mentioning the civil war between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang from the 1920s to the late 1940s and the bloody crackdown on protesters around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

Several prominent pro-establishment figures announced Wednesday the setting up of a new education center, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. 

Its aim is to promote, including through its website, knowledge of Chinese culture, history and current events among students so as to cultivate their sense of nationalism. Scholarships will also be offered.

National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, the center’s founding chairwoman, said the materials provided by the center will not touch on the civil war and the Tiananmen crackdown.

The reason is that both subjects have already been widely discussed and are highly controversial, she said.

Fan said the center does not want to become a platform for more dispute but only wants to help students learn more about Chinese history and culture.

Other directors of the center are Elsie Leung Oi-sie, deputy director of the NPC Standing Committee’s Basic Law Committee; Tsang Tak-sing, former secretary for home affairs; Lee Ming-kwai, former commissioner of police; Leung Kee-cheong, former principal of Fresh Fish Traders’ School; Au King-chi, former permanent secretary for financial services and the treasury; and Chen Shuang, chief executive of China Everbright Ltd. (00165.HK), a financial services firm.

The center is expected to raise HK$30 million (US$3.86 million) over the next three years and use it to encourage high school graduates to study history at university, publish books that cover Chinese history until the start of the Revolution of 1911 for more than 900 elementary schools and high schools in the city, and host symposiums for teachers to learn about the latest developments in the mainland, as well as arrange exchange groups for them to visit the mainland.

The center has filed an application to operate as a charity, which, if successful, will allow it to seek donations from the public.

Fan said the purpose of the center is not to brainwash students and that it has no political goal whatsoever, although she admits others might disagree.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political commentator and senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that while he approves of the creation of such a center by the pro-establishment camp, he is not optimistic about how successful it will be in achieving its aims.

Some students, teachers and young people in Hong Kong are highly dissatisfied with issues in the mainland, such as corruption and the lack of human rights, Choy said, and disputes over the civil war and June 4 crackdown can hardly be avoided. 

Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said he doubts that the center will make any criticisms of the central government, since some of its directors, including Fan and Elsie Leung, have close connections with Beijing.

Whether the center can keep its contents and methods objective and balanced is open to question, Lau said.

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