Representational image by ZEO Ho Fat via Wikimedia Commons
Hong Kong: Few newly introduced Hong Kong textbooks have triggered a controversy as they claimed that the region was never a British colony.
The textbook material is still under review by principals, teachers, scholars and employees of Hong Kong’s Education Bureau, but it seems destined for classrooms, reports The News York Times.
Local news websites published draft excerpts this week, and The New York Times viewed teachers’ proof copies.
The material is part of a wider campaign by China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, to overhaul Hong Kong’s schools, “protect young minds” and raise loyal, patriotic citizens, the newspaper reported.
Jeffrey Ngo, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and a doctoral candidate in history at Georgetown University, told the newspaper that the government’s position “is a shorthand for saying, ‘Hong Kong was always a part of China, thus Hong Kongers never could claim a right of self-determination.’”
“It’s about trying to make sure the next generation of young kids are going to be supportive or at least sympathetic to what the government is saying,” Ngo added. “This is part of the remake of Hong Kong in the national security era.”
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten has targeted China and said it has “breached comprehensively” in recent years the promise of guaranteeing a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong for 50 years following its handover to Beijing's control.
The principle of “one country, two systems” in the Joint Declaration on the question of Hong Kong, which was filed at the United Nations in 1985, was supposed to guarantee a “high degree of autonomy” for the city, protect its way of life as well as its freedoms and rule of law, Patten recalled. The handover went into effect on July 1, 1997, and the guarantee was to last to 2047, reports South China Morning Post.
“It’s fair to say for 10 years after 1997, maybe a bit longer, things did not go too badly wrong, but they’ve gone downhill since, partly because [Chinese President] Xi Jinping and his colleagues are terrified of what Hong Kong actually stands for,” Patten, who in a new book is quite critical of a controversial national security law enacted for the city two years ago, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
“I think the things that Hong Kong stands for – the freedoms and the characteristics of the Hong Kong sense of citizenship – are important to all of us,” he added.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed over to China in 1997, and the Basic Law preserves its autonomy as a Special Administrative Region under the principle of “one country, two systems”.