Hong Kong localism and independence

Revised history curriculum focuses more on Hong Kong but omits important elements of the past

New Chinese history syllabus for junior secondary school levels receives a mixed reaction from educators after first consultation session

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 11:21am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2016, 1:43am

Educators have criticised a revised junior secondary Chinese history curriculum, opened for consultation Thursday, for focusing more on positive aspects and less on negative topics such as disorder and the fall of different eras.

Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim said on Wednesday that the syllabus aimed to increase student interest in the topic, their understanding of the city’s background and China’s development.

“As a Hongkonger and a Chinese [citizen], one should be clear about the history of one’s place,” Ng said.

But one teacher at yesterday’s consultation reportedly raised concerns over too much focus on unification and prosperity and too little on disorder and the fall of different eras in the new curriculum.

Two-thirds of Hong Kong’s Chinese history teachers opposed to curriculum revision

Chinese history teacher and the deputy director of education research for the Professional Teachers’ Union Chen Yan-kai echoed the concerns, saying the fall of Qin and Han dynasties had been omitted from the new curriculum. He said the Three-anti Campaign and Five-anti Campaign reform movements issued by the former chairman of the Communist Party of China Mao Zedong were also left out.

“The disorder and fall of different eras is important for the development of history,” Chen said.

In response, head of the curriculum review committee Professor Leung Yuen-sang from the Chinese University, said: “While every dynasty’s demise has its reasons, the suffering of the people are the same. If they are the same, we will not try to search for different reasons.”

Topics relating to Hong Kong history in the new syllabus included the Japanese occupation, the city’s role after the opening up of China and the 1997 handover. The consultation paper also stated that 15 out of 150 Chinese history classes from Secondary One to Three would be dedicated to Hong Kong.

Chen said more local history might help pro-independence activists see that Hong Kong also had problems under the British colonial government, “such as corruption of civil servants”. He added Hong Kong history elements were only included in the appendix section of textbooks in the current syllabus.

Lee Wai-hung, chairman of the Association of Chinese History Teachers, said by introducing Hong Kong history elements to the syllabus – from ancient history to the 1997 handover – students would understand that the city is an indisputable part of China.

The current Chinese history syllabus for junior secondary school levels has been in place for nearly 20 years. The subject is taught in all junior secondary schools in Hong Kong. At senior secondary levels, the subject is an elective.

Figures show the number of students taking Chinese history for their Diploma of Secondary Education fell from 11.1 per cent in 2012 to 8.26 per cent last year.