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Asia Minute: Hong Kong’s history revisited in new high school textbooks

Hong Kong Students china national flag 090121
Kin Cheung/AP
Students attend a Chinese national flag raising ceremony during the first day of the new academic year at a secondary school in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

It’s been nearly two years since China’s National People’s Congress passed a wide-ranging security law covering activities in Hong Kong. It changed the nature of demonstrations there.

Now authorities want to change school textbooks about Hong Kong’s history.

Hong Kong was never a British colony, according to the latest edition of textbooks heading to secondary schools in Hong Kong.

The books draw a distinction between exercising “colonial rule” and actually being a colony.

The new books, and the Beijing government, say China never gave up its sovereignty over Hong Kong during more than 150 years of British rule — and therefore was never a colony.

Critics call that a re-writing of history — part of a broader effort to shape not only Hong Kong’s future, but also interpretations of its past.

The books will be used in a new course on “citizenship and social development,” which includes lessons on patriotism and lawfulness.

It replaces a course that used to be taught on civic engagement and critical thinking.

That course had been slammed by Chinese authorities, saying it had “radicalized” young people.

Local media report those new books also refer to “external forces” as being responsible for the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong — and echo the Chinese government's view that those demonstrations were a security threat.

The new textbooks have been vetted by Hong Kong’s Education Bureau and they are scheduled to be part of the curriculum for high school students starting in September.

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