CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Tiananmen and riots not history

HONG KONG (UCAN): A revised curriculum for the teaching of Chinese history in junior secondary schools in Hong Kong was opened up for consultation to the public on October 3, but unlike that presented in 2012 when the content was the contentious issue, this time around it is more likely to be the lack of it that will draw flak.
In a decision made by the chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, to make Chinese history a compulsory subject for students between the ages of roughly 14 and 16, politically sensitive material on both sides of the Guangdong border are being omitted.
Significantly, Chinese history as taught in Hong Kong will pretend that the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989 never happened and the riots in Hong Kong stirred up by mainland infiltrators is to be a non-event.
However, while the revised curriculum suggests that it will be up to the discretion of teachers to make up their own minds whether to teach about the two events, immediate suspicion over the sudden decision by the Education Bureau has cast suspicion on gentle suggestions from Beijing.
Maya Wang, from Human Rights Watch, is presuming this. She told UCAN, “Education should be a matter for Hong Kong to decide.”
But as the Chinese government increasingly interferes in Hong Kong’s domestic affairs, the “Hong Kong government is losing autonomy over some educational policies as well,” she suggested.
The Chinese government has for a long time put pressure on the Education Bureau in Hong Kong to promote patriotism among the students in the city. Both Beijing and Lam have been strong advocates of national education and the adoption of patriotic Chinese studies in local Hong Kong schools.
The programme aims to foster a greater sense of identity with mainland China, but opponents have criticised it as a form of brainwashing.
“The Education Bureau has adopted views similar to the Chinese government—that peaceful advocacy of independence is contrary to the Basic Law, that Hong Kong students should love China and that events like the Tiananmen Massacre are unimportant,” Wang said.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union has been supplying education kits on sensitive issues, including the Tiananmen Massacre and the death of the Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who spent the last years of his life up to just before he died of cancer in prison.
“The Communist state is trying all means to influence curriculum reform in Hong Kong,” Henry Kwok Yan-shing, a senior lecturer at the School of Education and Languages at the Open University of Hong Kong, pointed out.
Catholic schools in Hong Kong have long struggled to squeeze religious instruction into the busy schedule of required class room periods for other subjects, so if the Chinese history classes are to find a space, something will have to give.
Kwok agrees, saying, “Once it is made compulsory, other school subjects… probably need to give way.”
In a paper filed in the legislature the government affirms that in the first round of consultation on the curriculum, which was conducted last year, almost all teachers agreed with the revisions. It also says it met with student groups, but does not identify them.
The scrapping of recent major events from the curriculum champions the prosperity of ancient China, but diminishes modern history.
It is a useful narrative for Beijing to use and the simplistic revision of history helps to keep the Communist Party history clean and power structure intact.

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