Decision to rewrite textbooks after June defended

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 1997, 12:00am

Mr Tung yesterday defended the decision to revise textbooks after the handover.

Chinese Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen said on Monday any schoolbooks seen as not conforming to history or the spirit of 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law would need to be revised after the handover.

Mr Tung said: 'Obviously textbooks need to be rewritten, especially those related to the colonial past. You may not be aware of it . . . Up to now, they still refer to China as 'our neighbouring country' rather than sovereign.' Asked whether accounts of historical events such as the Beijing massacre in 1989 needed to be rewritten, Mr Tung said: 'You may be interested to read what is written about the Opium War.' He said later that it was referred to by some as a dispute over trade.

His answers drew a challenge from another journalist on whether he had ever said no to Beijing.

Mr Tung retorted: 'I think protecting the rights of Hong Kong people is a very important responsibility . . . but we have to find a balance between what is the right of the individual to demonstrate and the society.' The reporter added: 'But do you ever say to them [Chinese leading officials] 'you are wrong!'?' Pointing his finger, Mr Tung said: 'Let me ask you, during the 150 years of British colonial rule, have you ever seen a British governor talking back to the Prime Minister openly?' Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming was surprised that when Mr Qian said something, Mr Tung sought to protect him.

Mr Lee was puzzled as to why the textbooks would bother a Foreign Minister, believing it should be a matter for the Special Administrative Region.