Why should teachers discuss ‘false reports’ about Xinjiang, asks education chief

Published (HKT): 2021.04.10 19:18

Hong Kong’s top education official has questioned the need to discuss controversies over mainland China’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang during class, and said that teachers should not be concerned about the national security law if they love the country.

Education Secretary Kevin Yeung was asked on a radio program whether teachers could use reports by the BBC in a class discussion about allegations that forced labor has been used to produce cotton in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. Beijing has denied these allegations.

“Since the country has said that this is false, why would you still need to discuss a false report in class?” Yeung said on a RTHK program.

Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been forced into hard labor in the cotton fields in Xinjiang, the BBC has reported.

The interviewer then suggested that the teacher could quote a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs after mentioning the BBC report. Yeung replied that teachers just need to ensure a fair discussion.

Yeung also played down concerns from teachers about breaching the red line and violating the national security law in class.

“If we generally cherish our country, then we would naturally not have this worry,” Yeung said.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong was praised for its efforts in starting to “sterilize” teaching materials in a statement by the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

The CCDI statement singled out the teaching of the Opium Wars in the 19th century, and claimed that “poisonous” teaching materials had whitewashed the British role in provoking the conflicts.

“The Opium Wars brought serious catastrophe to China,” the statement read. “Every Chinese youth should fully understand and form a correct view of this part of history.”

The statement quoted a Ming Pao report which compared old and new history textbooks, the former describing how Britain went to war with China because of the Qing Dynasty’s restrictive trade practices.

The new textbook instead said these issues had no direct connection to the outbreak of war.

Education has remained a controversial topic in Hong Kong for a number of years, with disagreements over the teaching of Chinese history and the position of the former Liberal Studies subject in the secondary school curriculum.

Liberal Studies, which was blamed by some for inciting Hong Kong youth to protest, has been revamped and renamed Citizenship and Social Development.

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