Hong Kong's New Rules have Created Confusion in the Classroom. Some Parents are Pulling their Children OutHistorians in the News
tags: China, censorship, Hong Kong, teaching history, Tiananmen massacre
In June, Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that bans secession, subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign powers. The law was passed to quell the pro-democracy movement that destabilized the financial hub last year, but its reach went far beyond policing protests to criminalizing certain conversations, political positions, publications and even social media posts.
In Hong Kong's classrooms, it is now unclear what can legally be taught or discussed.
Rowena He, an associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has witnessed these types of changes to an education system play out before. In the spring of 1989, millions took to the streets in Beijing and other cities across China to demand political reforms. The nationwide movement ended on June 4, when the People's Liberation Army opened fire on its own people Beijing's city center. After that, the Communist Party launched a patriotic education campaign to instil national pride and change young people's attitudes towards Western powers.
Today, few young people within mainland China know about the Tiananmen massacre, or pro-democracy protests, because the event is censored from the Chinese internet and books, and is not taught in schools. Many of those who know about the incident believe in the official version that the crackdown was necessary for China's stability and rise.
But in Hong Kong it will take far longer to "brainwash the younger generation," He said. "Hong Kong has a strong civil society," she explained.
He is the author of "Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China." For years, she taught seminars on the movement in American universities before moving to Hong Kong last year. She was looking forward to attending the June 4 commemoration for the first time in Hong Kong, the only place on Chinese soil where an annual vigil is held. But authorities banned the event in June for the first time in 30 years, citing coronavirus concerns. Many fear it will never take place again. A smaller crowd of people still gathered in Victoria Park this year, leading to the arrest of dozens of democracy activists who were accused of knowingly taking part in an "unauthorized assembly."