An “information brochure,”sponsored by the Education Bureau and distributed to Hong Kong schools by a pro-Beijing education group in 2015, has aroused controversy after its contents were criticised as being subjective.
The 90-page brochure, obtained by Apple Daily, reportedly claims that protests against a controversial national security law in 2003 were the result of “misunderstandings” by the media and public.
“[The proposal of Article 23 of the Basic Law] was widely criticised and misunderstood by the media and the public, which led to a demonstration by 500,000 Hongkongers on July 1, 2003,” it reads.
‘Echoes’ white paper
The brochure is titled “The Practice of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Policy in Hong Kong”, which is also the title of Beijing’s controversial white paper issued in June 2014, amid popular discussion over electoral reform in the city. The brochure reportedly echoes the views of the white paper, stating that the city’s autonomy is limited to only whatever level is authorised by the central government.
It also describes the pro-establishment camp as successful in its efforts at tactical voting and opinion polling during the 2012 Legislative Council election: “The pan-democrats lost because they lacked a sense of teamwork, did not coordinate, and engaged in infighting,” it says.
The pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (HKFEW) authored and distributed the brochure to schools free-of-charge beginning in July 2015. The organisation says that it obtained funding from the Hong Kong Teachers’ Centre, an agency under the Education Bureau, which Apple Daily says totalled around HK$70,000.
Education sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen criticised the pamphlet for promoting a mainland Chinese viewpoint on Hong Kong, for copying the wording of the State Council’s 2014 white paper, and for not being objective.
In its response, the HKFEW said that the brochure is merely informational, intended as reference material for teaching the One Country, Two Systems policy in Hong Kong schools. However, pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao has described the brochure as “teaching material.”
The controversy comes in the wake of the issuance of guidelines by the Education Bureau last month, saying that all schools are required to spend 51 hours teaching topics or themes “related to the Basic Law” at the junior secondary level.