Revised HK textbooks correct political misconceptions, stress Chinese identity

By Deng Xiaoci Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/18 23:19:02

Children attend an event marking the new semester at Yaumati Catholic Primary School in south China's Hong Kong, Sept. 2, 2019.Photo:Xinhua

 Hong Kong's education bureau confirmed to the Global Times on Tuesday that it has sent advice to a number of publishers that had voluntarily submitted their liberal studies textbooks to the education regulator for consultancy, and the corresponding revisions have been made by the middle of August.

The revisions include stressing that protestors will be held legally accountable if they violate the law, strengthening students' identity as both Hongkongers and Chinese, and clarifying that Hong Kong's political system is not based on so-called "separation of the three powers."

Although still conducted on a voluntary basis at the current stage, such a review-and-revision mechanism itself is of great significance, as not only publishers but teaching staff can have a better awareness and clearer guidance on what is considered as suitable to be used in a classroom setting, Hong Kong education insiders told the Global Times. They also said that they believe such a mechanism could close a loophole in the city's educational system that had caused problems among youth.

A total of six publishers and eight textbooks have gone through the consultancy, which was conducted by a team of education professionals appointed by the education bureau. 

The list of the publishers and the textbooks has been made public on the bureau's website. 

The bureau said it recommends schools to adopt textbooks that had completed the consultancy. 

Aristo Educational Press, a publisher once heavily criticized for providing "poisonous information" in favor of pro-secessionist groups, was among the publishers that undertook such a review and made revisions to its textbooks. In the rule of law section of the book, the publisher crossed out a statement saying "It is widely believed that [Hong Kong] society upholds separation of three powers."

As a matter of fact, Hong Kong, as a special administrative region of China, adopts an executive-led governance model. 

Aristo told the Global Times on Wednesday via email that it had made revisions of the textbook content based on the consultancy, "to ensure the book's content is in line with the actual national situation"

Aristo added that it firmly upholds the idea that the HKSAR is an inalienable part of China, and its textbook series serves to help students to correctly understand Hong Kong's relationship with the country, enhance their identity awareness as Chinese nationals, and gain knowledge concerning the spirit of the rule of law.

In another textbook published by the Hong Kong Educational Publishing Co, the revised version added that if protestors violate the laws, they will be held legally accountable.

Media also reported that other information, such as that the robust economic development of the mainland will offer great opportunities for Hong Kong residents, who are encouraged to participate in the country's development while identifying as both "Hongkonger and Chinese," is also included in the new revision. 

Tang Fei, a principal at Hong Kong's Heung To Secondary School (Tseung Kwan O), dismissed some Hong Kong media's misinterpretations of such changes as symbolic of the city government bending to the central government under political pressure, saying that such revisions are aligned with the true spirits of the liberal studies.

Compared with textbooks on scientific subjects, the previous content on legal and social knowledge went too far for students and failed to prevent them from falling into the traps of opposition groups' propaganda, he noted. 

It is entirely untrue and pure propaganda to say that Hong Kong society widely believes in the so-called separation of three powers, and opposition groups used to implant ideas in textbooks to promote their political agenda among the youth, Tang explained.

He believed that the revisions would omit such political rhetoric of the opposition and help train students to think in a critical and rational way.

Former HKSAR government chief executive Tung Chee-hwa said in August 2019, when the city was haunted by riots and social chaos, that it was misleading content in the liberal studies curriculum that caused wide misunderstanding and even hostility against the Chinese mainland among Hong Kong youths, and such content had also confused their awareness of their identity. 

Cui Fandi contributed to this story.

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