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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Motion on teaching of Chinese history at junior secondary level passed in Hong Kong’s Legco

But many pan-democrats say move, aimed at addressing the ‘problem of radical separatist thoughts among youth’, a ‘brainwashing’ bid

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 November, 2016, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 November, 2016, 12:25am

A motion requiring that Chinese history be taught as an independent and compulsory subject at the junior secondary level, which pro-Beijing legislators said would help address what they called the issue of “radical separatist thoughts among youngsters”, has been passed in the Legislative Council.

But many pan-democrats call it a “brainwashing” move, saying the Chinese history subject was the “new national education”.

In 2012, a government plan to add “national education” courses, aimed at nurturing patriotism for China, to the school curriculum was scrapped after protests lasting 10 days were held that year.

Chinese history is currently taught in all schools at the junior secondary level, but some schools combine the subject with others such as world history.

Perspective key to teaching our children Chinese history

Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, who moved the motion, said that even though the city had returned to China for close to 20 years, not only had youngsters’ sense of belonging to China not grown, but there had also been “radical separatist thoughts” recently.

“I believe this has to do with some Hongkongers having a shallow understanding of history, and the flaws in the way Chinese history is taught in secondary schools,” he said.

Lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun blamed the Education Bureau for the lack of focus on the subject, which she said led to a “rootless” and “ignorant” younger generation, pointing to the use of a derogatory pronunciation for “China” during the swearing-in ceremony of two former legislators.

But various pro-democrats slammed the motion for its “brainwashing” motives. “The main aim of the motion [tabled by Cheung] is to have Chinese history execute the brainwashing task that was not completed by national education,” Tanya Chan Suk-chong said.

The non-binding motion was approved by a majority both in the functional group and geographical group, after only 14 democrats in the latter group voted against it.

The Education Bureau recently completed the first stage of a consultation on a revised junior secondary Chinese history curriculum.

It will include more aspects of contemporary history and focus less on ancient history, while adding topics relating to Hong Kong history for the first time. But some educators were concerned over too much emphasis being put on positive aspects such as unification and prosperity, and too little on negative aspects such as the disorder and fall of different eras in the new curriculum.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim revealed that the consultation will progress to the second stage in May next year.