National education in Hong Kong

Don't dwell on ‘one or two events’, Hong Kong education chief says on why Tiananmen crackdown not in Chinese history plan

Kevin Yeung tells lawmakers that teachers would be free to cover historical events omitted from curriculum, but some ask why Beijing unrest and 1967 riots not mentioned

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 4:15pm

Hong Kong’s education minister has urged against dwelling on “one or two events” as lawmakers grilled him on why neither the Tiananmen Square crackdown nor the city’s 1967 riots were mentioned in a revised compulsory Chinese history syllabus for secondary school pupils.

Teachers would be free to cover related historical events not included in the syllabus, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said during a meeting of the Legislative Council’s education panel on Tuesday.

The meeting was held a day after the government launched a second round of public consultation on the compulsory Chinese history subject for junior secondary schools.

Under the revised curriculum, Form One and Two pupils are to be taught ancient Chinese history.

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Form Three pupils are to learn modern Chinese history, including events such as the Cultural Revolution, relations between Hong Kong and the mainland since 1949, Sino-British negotiations on the handover of Hong Kong to China, and the establishment of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

If you weren’t there, does it mean that we don’t need to teach it?
Ted Hui, lawmaker

About 10 per cent of class time is to be dedicated to Hong Kong’s role and development.

At the Tuesday meeting, many lawmakers asked why controversial events such as the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 and the city’s 1967 riots had not been included in the syllabus.

Pan-democrat Claudia Mo Man-ching said the riots were closely linked to the Cultural Revolution and thereafter fundamentally affected colonial governance in Hong Kong.

Ted Hui Chi-fung, of the Democratic Party, said he was upset that Chinese University history professor Leung Yuen-sang, chairman of a committee in charge of revising the curriculum, had asked journalists where they were during the riots during a press conference, implying the event did not concern them.

“Minister, can I also ask where you were during the establishment of the People’s Republic of China?” Hui asked. “If you weren’t there, does it mean that we don’t need to teach it as well?”

The education minister said the purpose of the subject was to teach pupils China’s 5,000 years of history systematically.

Some events may be relatively less important from an historical and educational point of view
Kevin Yeung, education minister

“We understand different events have different meanings to different people, but when we look at China’s 5,000 years of history, sometimes some events may be relatively less important from an historical and educational point of view,” he said.

“I think we’d better not dwell on one or two events and whether they’re included [in the syllabus].”

Yeung said the government welcomed during the consultation period opinions from the public about what else should be included.

He added that the syllabus was just a framework and teachers would be free to choose what related events to teach.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has announced that all Hong Kong secondary schools would teach Chinese history as an independent compulsory subject at the junior levels from next year in a bid to equip pupils with a sense of national identity.

The second stage of public consultation on the subject will run until the end of November, and the new syllabus is expected to take effect in the 2020 school year.