A group of educators in Hong Kong has condemned what they described as government attempts to censor textbooks.
In a letter addressed to Hong Kong’s education secretary, Kevin Yeung, the educators called for a stop to the alleged censorship of educational materials by authorities.
“We express our strong dissatisfaction and request the Education Bureau to withdraw the political review and deletion of general education textbooks,” read the letter.
In September last year, the Education Bureau launched the “Professional Consultancy Service” for Liberal Studies textbooks aimed at providing “professional advice to optimize the content of textbooks.”
The educators, however, claimed that various publishing houses recently “uploaded the censored and revised textbooks to their websites for teachers to consult.”
The group accused the Education Bureau of modifying and deleting “a large amount of content.”
“Not only is it completely inconsistent with the Education Bureau’s claims of ‘improving the quality of textbooks’ and ‘implementing the aims and objectives of the curriculum,’ it is more apparent that political censorship is introduced through so-called ‘consultation’ to control the content of general education textbooks and implement brainwashing education for students,” read the educators’ letter.
The group said a large number of textbooks involving politics, especially with topics related to the “separation of powers” have reportedly been deleted.
“The textbooks on the idea of civil disobedience and the government’s damage to the freedom of assembly were also drastically deleted,” said the educators.
An earlier report in The Times said the Chinese Communist Party has removed mention of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre from Hong Kong school textbooks.
The text books make no mention of the massacre itself, while others have removed significant details including the number of protestors who were killed and the motives behind their discontent.
This development follows the introduction of the National Security Law on June 30, that requires national security education be introduced into the Hong Kong curriculum.
The Diocese of Hong Kong has earlier instructed Catholic academic institutions in the city to explain the provisions of the new National Security Law to students.
Teachers are encouraged to “foster the correct values on [students’] national identity” and to respect Chinese national symbols including the flag and national anthem.
In a letter, Peter Lau Chiu Yin, episcopal delegate for education in the diocese, advised schools to set up a regular mechanism to “effectively monitor the handling of teaching materials, assignments, examination papers, and books” chosen by teaching staff and instructors.
In June, Beijing has imposed the controversial security legislation “criminalizing subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers” in Hong Kong.
The group of educators, meanwhile, said the censorship of textbooks aims “to obliterate students’ learning opportunities for understanding different ideas, understanding problems from multiple angles, and free and independent thinking.”
The groups claimed that the government’s move to censor textbooks has “reduced” the country’s knowledge courses to “brainwashing education.”
The letter denounced the government’s “disregard” of the teachers’ “professional knowledge and teaching experience,” which they claimed “have sufficient professional qualifications to judge teaching quality, and select suitable teaching materials for students.”
They said authorities are trying to “hinder students from learning independent thinking, thereby suppressing freedom of thought.”
The group accused the Education Bureau of “forcing” teachers and students to use the revised textbooks when the school year starts in September.
The groups demanded authorities to “withdraw the political review and deletion” of general education textbooks and urged the Education Bureau to “publicize” the “Professional Consultancy Services” review criteria.
Among the groups that signed the petition were the Progressive Teachers’ Alliance, Hong Kong Educators Alliance, Hongkongers Education Support, and Education Breakthrough.