In New Textbooks, Hong Kong Was By no means a British Colony

HONG KONG — Many schoolchildren all over the world have lengthy been taught that Hong Kong was as soon as a colony of the British Empire. However college students in Hong Kong will quickly study a unique lesson: It wasn’t.

Beijing has steadfastly maintained that view of town’s standing, lengthy earlier than Britain returned town to China in 1997, and years earlier than a sweeping crackdown crushed a thriving pro-democracy motion within the once-semiautonomous territory.

Now, as Hong Kong prepares to commemorate 25 years since its handover to China on July 1, 1997, that viewpoint — which rejects how the British noticed their relationship to town — will probably be explicitly taught to Hong Kong highschool college students via not less than 4 new textbooks that will probably be rolled out within the fall.

The textbook materials remains to be below assessment by principals, academics, students and workers of Hong Kong’s Training Bureau, nevertheless it appears destined for school rooms. Native information web sites printed draft excerpts this week, and The New York Instances seen academics’ proof copies. The fabric is in line with a wider marketing campaign by China’s high chief, Xi Jinping, to overtake Hong Kong’s faculties, “shield younger minds” and lift loyal, patriotic residents.

Jeffrey Ngo, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and a doctoral candidate in historical past at Georgetown College, stated that the federal government’s place “is a shorthand for saying, ‘Hong Kong was at all times part of China, thus Hong Kongers by no means may declare a proper of self-determination.’”

“It’s about making an attempt to verify the subsequent era of younger children are going to be supportive or not less than sympathetic to what the federal government is saying,” Mr. Ngo added. “That is a part of the remake of Hong Kong within the nationwide safety period.”

Beneath the phrases of the 1997 handover negotiated with Britain, China had agreed that the social and financial methods of the territory would stay unchanged for 50 years after resuming sovereignty, with the end result that Hong Kong initially had a excessive diploma of autonomy from the mainland. When strikes by Beijing threatened that association, protesters took to the streets in 2014 and once more in 2019.

Within the wake of the 2019 pro-democracy protests towards the tightening grip of China’s Communist Celebration on town, Beijing sought to punish dissent, limiting free speech and focusing on unbiased information shops and pro-democracy leaders. It prosecuted 1000’s of activists, and a few fled into exile. A nationwide safety legislation imposed on Hong Kong additionally gave the authorities sweeping energy to silence opposition. One other goal for officers was Hong Kong’s instructional system, which, they stated, had formed the beliefs of youths who led the demonstrations.

Steve Tsang, the director of the SOAS China Institute in London, stated that because the Chinese language management issued in 2013 a memo often called Doc No. 9 that took goal at Western influences within the nation, China has allowed just one model of historical past to be taught. Hong Kong would now not be an exception to the rule.

“Within the Xi strategy to historical past, information are merely incidental,” Professor Tsang stated. “Solely interpretation issues. And just one interpretation is allowed.”

Students and historians stated that China’s portrayal of Hong Kong’s standing below British rule will not be new. Though the Communist Celebration had referred to China earlier than 1949 as a “half colony, half-feudal society,” it has maintained since not less than 1997 that Hong Kong was not a real colony, stated Ho-fung Hung, a professor of political financial system at Johns Hopkins College and the writer of “Metropolis on the Edge: Hong Kong Beneath Chinese language Rule.”

He cited an article within the occasion’s newspaper, Folks’s Each day, printed in March 1997, that argued: “The UK has exercised typical colonial rule in Hong Kong, nevertheless it doesn’t imply that Hong Kong is a colony. Colonies within the ordinary sense primarily check with international locations which have misplaced their sovereignty on account of international rule and jurisdiction. Hong Kong is a part of China’s territory, so the idea of colony doesn’t apply to Hong Kong.”

Within the nineteenth century, Britain took over what’s now modern-day Hong Kong by way of two wars and a sequence of treaties that the Chinese language authorities says had been unequal and coerced.

In 1946, the United Nations included Hong Kong on a listing of “non-self-governing territories,” and in a 1960 decision stated the folks there must be granted “the proper to self-determination.” In 1972, after Beijing took over China’s seat on this planet physique, it efficiently pushed the U.N. to take away Hong Kong from the checklist, arguing that it was inside China’s sovereign proper to resolve Hong Kong’s future.

“Beijing by no means acknowledged that China had given up her sovereignty over Hong Kong, that British rule in Hong Kong had legitimacy and that 1997 is the time China resumed the train of sovereignty over Hong Kong,” Lau Siu-kai, a senior adviser to Beijing on Hong Kong coverage, stated in an interview.

He added, “Beijing solely admits that Britain had imposed ‘colonial rule’ on Hong Kong. Textbooks, in fact, should mirror Beijing’s place. ”

Mr. Lau, who is known as as an editorial adviser to one of many textbooks, declined to remark additional on the books themselves, saying that he had performed solely a restricted function.

The brand new schoolbooks look like the linchpin of a revamped civics highschool course that in years previous had been often called liberal research. It used to emphasise important considering and taught college students to be goal and analytical. The older curriculum, which was developed by schooling officers in 2007 and periodically up to date, didn’t seem to deal with the circumstances that led to Hong Kong’s handover. Some academics mentioned democracy, civil rights and even the Tiananmen Sq. bloodbath as a part of their lesson plans.

The brand new course, which was renamed Citizenship and Social Growth final yr, lists “Hong Kong’s return to China” as a part of the primary lesson plan. It locations higher emphasis on patriotism, China’s “indeniable sovereignty and jurisdiction” and the nationwide safety legislation.

Excerpts from the textbooks seen by The Instances repeatedly reinforce the occasion’s place on Hong Kong. “The British aggression violated the rules of worldwide legislation so its occupation of Hong Kong area shouldn’t have been acknowledged as lawful,” learn the academics’ version proof copy of 1 textbook printed by the Hong Kong Instructional Publishing Firm.

“Hong Kong didn’t have colonial standing, and thus there was no so-called self willpower,” it continued.

The Hong Kong Instructional Publishing Firm, which printed two of the 4 textbooks, didn’t reply to requests for remark. Neither did two different publishers of textbooks that denied Hong Kong’s colonial standing: Aristo Instructional Press and Trendy Instructional Analysis Society.

Hong Kong’s Training Bureau, which oversees the assessment of recent textbooks, stated in a assertion final week that the proofing course of was confidential and that the division would “observe up” with those that had violated its phrases.

It didn’t determine anybody and didn’t reply questions on the contents of the books.

Austin Ramzy contributed reporting.

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