Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor responded to reports that the Education Bureau wants to restrict the wording of content in Chinese History textbooks, striking up fears of political censorship.
An investigation conducted by broadcaster I-Cable found that the Bureau’s Textbook Review Panel asked some publishers to change phrases used in their textbooks.
I-Cable reported last week that the panel highlighted several phrases, including “Hong Kong is located south of China”, “China insisted on taking back Hong Kong’s sovereignty”, and “the Chinese Communist Party’s one-party rule.” The panel said that these phrases used “incorrect wording”, despite having been used in textbooks in the past.
Lam told the press on Tuesday that she does not see why “increasing the accuracy” of certain terms in a textbook should be criticised. “I think the public are oversensitive about this issue, and have overanalysed it,” Lam said.
“Regarding the example of ‘China insisted on taking back Hong Kong’s sovereignty’, [...] Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, the former President of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, said that such phrasing is not very precise because China has never given Hong Kong’s sovereignty away to the third party,” Lam added.
This echoes earlier responses given to the Legislative Council by the Secretary for Education, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, on Saturday. He also said that some phrases that were acceptable in the past could no longer be accepted in new textbooks.
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The Professional Teacher’s Union said in a statement that Yeung’s responses may have violated the Textbook Writing Guidelines, which say textbooks should provide different perspectives and interpretations of historical events. . “The demand for publishers to make changes to represent the “official” stance also harms the teaching profession,” they added.
Demosisto, a pro-democracy political party, said in a statement on Saturday that the Education Bureau could be systematically censoring textbooks to “wash away ‘politically incorrect’ content.” The group demanded that the names of the review panel’s members be made public, and that the government stop “editing textbooks based on “biased political ideology.’”
Hong Kong textbook publishers must have their content reviewed by an anonymous Textbook Review Panel, who will produce a report identifying any problems in the texts. The publishers must then produce a ‘corrected version’.