New Hong Kong textbooks say the city was not a British colony

New textbooks sent to secondary schools in Hong Kong teach that the city was not a British colony, but occupied territory – a rehash of history that is part of Beijing’s ideological crackdown on the city.

The textbooks seek to thwart calls for self-determination in the city following a wave of anti-government protests in 2019, in which some participants called for independence.

“Same [though] Britain occupied Hong Kong. . . the Chinese government did not recognize these unequal treaties and insisted [on] its sovereignty over Hong Kong,” reads an “exemplary response” in a textbook published by the Modern Educational Research Society, a Hong Kong publisher.

“Therefore, Hong Kong did not meet the condition of a ‘country losing its sovereignty’ and was not a colony,” the manual reads.

At least five textbooks sent to secondary schools in Hong Kong for pre-publication review point out that the current Chinese government has never recognized the landmark treaties that ceded the territory to the UK.

Many add that the UN’s removal of Hong Kong from its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories in 1972 meant that the world body’s support for a resolution on self-rule in settled places was not applicable to the city.

“It shows that international law confirms that the Hong Kong issue is China’s sovereign rights,” reads a Chinese-language textbook from Hong Kong-based Aristo Educational Press.

The books were sent to schools as part of the city’s new ‘citizenship and social development’ course, which last year replaced a liberal studies curriculum that Beijing loyalists accused of radicalizing students for that they participate in anti-government protests in 2019.

Hong Kong authorities have stepped up pressure on schools to take a Chinese nationalist line, a campaign that last year prompted the city’s largest teachers’ union to disband.

Britain occupied Hong Kong in 1841 during the First Opium War, and China’s ruling Qing dynasty ceded the island the following year. Apart from a period of Japanese occupation during World War II, Britain administered the city as a colony and dependent territory until 1997, when it was ceded to the People’s Republic of China.

Aristo’s book said Hong Kong was linked to China by virtue of “racial ties”, “cultural heritage”, “linguistic system” and “garrisons”, as well as by economic and political jurisdiction.

The five books are part of a list of seven texts that schools will choose from to teach the new course. They have been vetted by the city’s Education Bureau and are expected to be used by secondary school students from September.

The textbooks also repeat Beijing’s characterization of the 2019 pro-democracy protests as violent riots stoked by “external forces”.

Chan Chi-wa, a secondary school teacher for more than three decades, said that before 2019 textbooks rarely addressed the notion that the city was not a colony, but that view had been relayed to teachers since the last year at seminars organized by the education authorities.

“The most difficult thing for teachers is to explain to students why [Hong Kong] was seen by many as a colony, it is no longer the case now,” Chan said.

Aristo Educational Press, Modern Educational Research Society and Marshall Cavendish Education, which published one of the books, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hong Kong Educational Publishing Company, which published two books, and the Hong Kong Education Bureau declined to comment on the content of the textbooks.

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