Authorities in Hong Kong are targeting the Liberal Studies program in the city’s schools, sending fears to teachers who believe the move would likely lead to “brainwashing” students into unquestioning patriotism and loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
A teacher’s group in Hong Kong said it fears the entire Liberal Studies program, blamed by China for a string of mass, pro-democracy and anti-government protests in recent years, could now be repurposed as a vehicle for China’s brand of “patriotic education”.
The Education Breakthrough and Progressive Teachers’ Alliance called on the city’s education bureau to make public the standards used in a recent round of textbook revisions.
The revisions ordered by the authorities, in compliance with the new security law, have seen the names of opposition groups and references to the separation of powers expunged from textbooks and teaching materials.
“The space between the political red lines in the field of education is going to get smaller and smaller,” Education Breakthrough spokesman Isaac Cheng told reporters.
“Whenever a major event occurs and is subject to a crackdown by the [Chinese] government, booksellers will withdraw [books]and revise them to a version that is closer to the government’s view.”
“Liberal Studies textbooks in future will be nothing but a paean to the [Hong Kong] and Chinese governments,” he said.
The group said there are multiple examples of the wording of textbooks being changed to better reflect the official party line from Beijing, citing changes to the description of environmental pollution in mainland China as one example.
Another textbook publisher had edited a description of China’s censorship of Western movies to refer to controls on “imported cultural products.”
Cheng said he was “deeply concerned” about the future of the subject in Hong Kong’s schools, which are already being warned to ensure that they comply with stringent controls on speech and writing in a draconian national security law imposed on the city by Beijing in July.
Cheng said many Liberal Studies teachers were now afraid to speak out for fear of being fired or sanctioned.
The allegations came after the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) hit out at “unprofessional” conduct by the education bureau, saying the revision of textbooks amounted to political censorship.
The bureau said in a statement that the textbook revision had been triggered by last year’s protest movement, in response to concerns about “biased teaching materials.”
“The publishers voluntarily participated in the professional consultancy service and refined the textbooks, with a view to sieving out the inaccurate parts from the rest,” it said.
Edits had been made to avoid “the possibility of exaggeration, inaccuracy or misleading students’ understanding” and to help them develop “positive values.”
It confirmed that textbooks and teaching materials are also being reviewed to ensure compliance with the national security law.
The National Security Law for Hong Kong, which came into effect on July 01, bans secession, subversion, collusion with foreign powers, and terrorism. (Source: RFA)