China’s official news agency Xinhua on Friday threw its support behind a review of textbooks conducted by Hong Kong’s government, praising the move as “belated disinfection” and “a chance at self-redemption” for the city’s young people.
The vetting exercise, begun last year, led to content on Hong Kong’s human rights, civil disobedience, press freedom, policing abuses and rule of law being weeded out of some secondary school textbooks on the subject of Liberal Studies.
“Proxies of the United States and the West” had penetrated Hong Kong’s education system and nurtured authors of the “poisonous textbooks” to harm students, Xinhua said in an article published on Friday.
It also praised some publishers for adding sentences supportive of the official stance of mainland China following the review, such as “People must shoulder their legal liability for breaching the law” and “Rapid development in mainland China provides Hongkongers with enormous opportunities.”
Such additions, combined with the deletion of certain “poisons,” gave young Hongkongers a “chance at self-redemption,” Xinhua said.
The article quoted late 19th-century French sociologist Emile Durkheim as saying principles commonly abided by in the society needed to be included in school education so that everyone would become familiar with them, to achieve social stability and harmony.
Tin Fong-chak, vice president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union and a Liberal Studies teacher, said the Xinhua article unfairly cast Hong Kong educators in a negative light.
He said the subject taught students about their identity, as Hongkongers and as Chinese people. Different perspectives, including Hong Kong’s treasured values such as rule of law and freedom, should be presented to students in liberal studies without bias, he said.
Tin also said that Durkheim was among the most conversative scholars more than a century ago, and it would be rather outdated to frame issues in today’s Hong Kong using the views of the Frenchman.
The textbook review stemmed from a “professional consultancy service” introduced in 2019 by the government’s Education Bureau that aimed to “review the quality” of Liberal Studies school publications without taking political issues into account.
The scheme was voluntary in nature, the bureau said at the time, but books that were not reviewed would be left off a government-curated list.
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