Beijing has never given up on its desire to introduce patriotic education in Hong Kong schools.
But following the massive protests that greeted its attempt to implement the school curriculum in 2012, it is now trying a new approach.
The Hong Kong government is revising the Chinese History curriculum for secondary schools to focus on the unification and prosperity of ancient China, and play down modern history since the Communist Party rose to power in 1949.
Some education professionals believe the government has a hidden political agenda behind this new arrangement, that it is helping Beijing in promoting among our youth a positive impression of a unified China and, consequently, in suppressing the recent surge of separatism in the territory.
The Education Bureau last week announced the start of public consultation on the revision of the secondary school curriculum with regard to Chinese History.
A section on Hong Kong history will be added for the first time.
According to the Education Bureau, the aim is to let “students understand Hong Kong’s significance in the historical development of China as a whole, and would increase students’ sense of belonging towards China and in society”.
The government is planning to put four key issues in the study of the subject: how political developments in the early days of the Republic of China affected Hong Kong, how Hong Kong participated in the Second World War, the role of Hong Kong before China’s opening-up policy, and developments in Hong Kong after the 1997 handover.
Considering the focus of the subject, it is quite clear that the government is trying to play down Hong Kong’s uniqueness as a society and encouraging students to view the city from the Greater China perspective and thus regard Hong Kong as part of the motherland under the rule of the Communist Party.
In trying to set the study of Hong Kong history under the One China framework, the government obviously wants to use the school curriculum as a tool against the rise of localism in the city after the young generation started losing faith in the “one country, two systems” policy and seeking a new direction for their future.
What our education officials are conveniently trying to ignore is that Hong Kong’s history has changed since it was occupied by the British in 1841.
No matter how the school curriculum is changed, it cannot be denied that Hong Kong has been under the British colonial government until the 1997 handover.
For more than a century and a half, Hong Kong’s history and development have digressed from the route taken by China.
In fact, Hong Kong served as a safe harbor for Chinese people fleeing the chaos and political instability of China from the 1930s until the 1960s.
While China underwent tremendous cataclysm under the Kuomintang and Communist rule, Hong Kong was enjoying progress and relative peace under the colonial government.
If Hong Kong had been a part of China during those chaotic years, the city would not have achieved its unique culture and development.
Against such a backdrop, many teachers and scholars believe that it is ill-advised to make Hong Kong history a part of the study of Chinese history.
The government document on the proposed revisions in the study of Chinese history suggests that it will skip important events such as the 1967 riots and the June 4 Tiananmen massacre.
That could be a hint that the government doesn’t want our children to know the ugly side of the Communist Party, and its impact on the history of Hong Kong.
A teacher who attended the Education Bureau’s consultation briefing last Thursday observed that the revisions have a tendency to praise the unity and cohesion of China, and there was only brief mention of the long history of insurrections and divisions in China.
The new curriculum could only lead to the impression that China was united under a single sovereignty, regardless of the fact that it was ruled by different sovereign states in different periods of its history, and that it benefited from its diversified cultural development, the movement of people, and the surge in economic activities.
From the government perspective, Chinese History as a subject will teach the youth the important role played by China in Hong Kong’s development as an international financial center, regardless of the fact that Hong Kong became a global city under British rule.
According to one of the experts helping the government reshape the school curriculum, “there is a need to link up the history of Hong Kong and the mainland because of a strong connection between the development of both places, before and after the introduction of Deng Xiaoping’s open-door policy”.
The government wants our young people to believe that Hong Kong’s economic success was solely the result of China’s open-door policy in the 1980s.
But what about the role played by the British colonial government and Hong Kong people’s own efforts in driving the city’s growth?
In fact, China contributed to the rise of localism in Hong Kong as thousands of Chinese fled to the city to escape the Communist Party’s rule and avoid the political struggles during the 10-year Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong.
These immigrants contributed to the rise of Hong Kong, but in the proposed revision of the Chinese History subject, the government wants to play down the influx of Chinese people into Hong Kong in the ‘50s and ’60s.
If the government is determined to include the study of Hong Kong history in the curriculum, it should not ignore the events that truly shaped the city’s development, such as the riots in the 1960s, the establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the 1970s, and the people’s response to the 1989 student movement and Tiananmen massacre.
Hong Kong history should act as a mirror to Chinese history to reflect the city’s uniqueness and contribution to China’s modern development, instead of the other way around.
– Contact us at [email protected]