For decades, millions of children around the world have been taught that Hong Kong was once part of the British Empire. In the media, this territory is usually called the “former colony”, which does not escape guidebooks or business brochures. But next year’s school textbooks claim that the enclave was never a colony, and Beijing is sponsoring that version to justify its continued sovereignty over the troubled demarcation.
China’s position is not new. The Asian giant has always claimed that he never gave up his sovereignty over the territory and that his surrender to the British was due to the unfair “unequal treaties” that they, as losers, signed under pressure at the end of two opium wars in the 19th century. Through them, Britain ruled the territory from 1841 to 1941 and, after years of Japanese occupation during World War II, from 1945 to 1997. On July 1 of the same year, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time in Hong Kong. in the presence of Britain’s Prince Charles and Governor Chris Patten to make way for the Chinese flag, hoisted under the watchful eye of then-communist leader Jiang Zemin.
The new material will be applied in the subject “Citizenship and Social Development”, which replaces the Humanities.
From the Chinese point of view, Great Britain has been “carrying out only colonial rule” all these years, a definition now enshrined in the new statutes. Its pages also state that the United Nations removed Hong Kong from its list of colonies in 1972 at the request of China.
The local government has followed communist rhetoric since 1997. Its authorities, loyal to Beijing, never say that sovereignty has been “transferred”, but rather that Hong Kong has “returned to the motherland”. City museums used to describe the city as a colony, but these references are fading.
The latest change is in line with China’s recent efforts to instill a “Chinese identity” in local students. Especially after the anti-government protests of recent years and the emergence of movements advocating greater autonomy or even in some specific cases independence.
“British aggression violated the principles of international law, so the occupation of the Hong Kong area should not have been recognized as legal. Hong Kong did not have colonial status and therefore there was no such thing as self-determination, ”says one of the fragments seen by the media.
The four books in question are part of a new subject, Citizenship and Social Development, which replaces the previous liberal arts subject, which sought to give the student greater capacity for critical thinking and analysis. After the 2019 protests, this topic was pointed out as a source of radicalization and how some teachers instilled the wrong ideas in them, so it was decided to reform it.
In this sense, the new texts, which are still awaiting final approval, also reflect China’s position on the mass protests of three years ago, which posed a threat to their national security and were provoked by foreign forces. Its pages also justify Beijing’s imposition of a national security law on the territory. The rule, which punishes crimes of secession, subversion or terrorism up to life in prison, has been criticized by the opposition as a tool to silence any critical voice.
The textbook proposal comes just days before Hong Kong celebrates the 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty on July 1. On the same day, former head of security John Lee, who will replace the ill-fated Carrie Lam, the most underrated local leader in history, will also be sworn in as the new local chief executive.
Traditionally, the head of the central government attended the investiture ceremony. The presence of President Xi Jinping, who has not left China since the start of the pandemic, has not yet been confirmed. However, rumors have intensified in recent days after it became known that local authorities and schoolchildren will have to spend several days in quarantine before the anniversary, suggesting that they are preparing to create a “vicious circle” for the visit of a high-ranking official. .
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