Chaguan – Educational freedom is under assault in Hong Kong | China

Chaguan – Educational freedom is under assault in Hong Kong | China

May 23rd 2020AT LUNCHTIME ON May 14th a chat group for Hong Kong history teachers buzzed with reviews of this year’s school leavers’ examination. Th

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AT LUNCHTIME ON May 14th a chat group for Hong Kong history teachers buzzed with reviews of this year’s school leavers’ examination. Their tone was upbeat, seeing no surprises in the history paper. That included Question 2(c), which, as in previous years, used extracts of historical documents to prod students to consider both sides of a controversial question. This year’s extracts explored how early 20th-century reformers in China looked to Japan as a model of modernisation and indeed attended Japanese colleges in their thousands. Hong Kong pupils study that period rather briefly, spending more time on the years when Japanese nationalism led to violent imperialism, including Japan’s brutal occupation of swathes of China in the 1930s and 1940s. The paper asked candidates to weigh the statement: “Japan did more good than harm to China in the period 1900-45”. Teachers saw a familiar exercise: an invitation to set out a conventional view—that on balance Japan inflicted terrible suffering—while exploring a few counterarguments. In the chat group someone remarked: “These questions are so similar to previous years.” Then the sky fell in.

Over the next two days the question was called unpatriotic by a teachers’ union loyal to Hong Kong’s ruling establishment (and by extension, to Communist Party leaders in Beijing). It was denounced by officials in…



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