Community & Education Hong Kong

Hong Kong history exam probes Communist Party’s changing line on democracy, pre-handover fears

A question for the history subject of Hong Kong’s secondary school public exam has raised eyebrows as it asked students to comment on the Chinese Communist Party’s praise for democracy in the 1940s and the “drastic change” after it came to power.

Another question in the same paper also attracted attention as it cited a 1982 poll in which only four per cent of Hong Kong people supported the handover to China.

Mao Zedong Chinese Communist Party

Mao Zedong at the Chinese Communist Party’s seventh national congress. Photo: Xinhua.

The CCP question, which was the second question on the exam, supplied students with material from two sources. The first was an article published by a CCP newspaper on July 4, 1943, US Independence Day.

“The US has made an example to the underdeveloped China in democratic politics; as we learn to build a democratic and free China, we need to be bold, fair, honest,” it read. “Let democracy and science be the bond between the Chinese and American nations.”

The second was an excerpt from Mao Zedong’s speech at the seventh national congress of the CCP in 1945, near the end of the Second World War.

“To completely crush Japanese invaders, democratic reform must be conducted nationwide,” he said. “It is impossible to do that if we do not abolish the one-party rule of the Kuomintang and build a democratic coalition government.”

“There is no one in China who dares to say there is any advantage in one-party rule,” he added. Mao also said that freedom came from the struggle of the people and was not given by anyone.

Cultural Revolution Mao Zedong

A Cultural Revolution poster of Mao Zedong. Photo: Flickr/Jornny Liu.

The exam then asked three questions. Firstly, students had to refer to the first source and analyse the author’s attitude towards the US.

It then asked students to refer to the second source and answer: “If you were a Chinese intellectual living in 1945, would you support the Chinese Communist Party?”

The third question asked students to comment on the statement: “The Chinese Communist Party’s ruling principle has changed drastically after it came to power in 1949,” by referring to both materials and their knowledge of China’s development until 1978.

In 1978 the party decided it would implement reforms and open up the country after the Cultural Revolution ended with Mao’s death in 1976.

Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority

The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. Photo: Stand News.

After the exam, which took place this morning, the question on the CCP was widely shared on social media.

“I am certain that the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority is the bravest government institution,” one commenter said. “Real national education,” said another.

But some also warned that people should see the marking scheme, to be published later, before getting excited. “Maybe if you do not answer that you support the Chinese Communist Party, you will fail,” one said.

Majority wished for status quo

Another question on the handover was shared later on social media and surprised even more people.

It cited a poll by the Reform Club of Hong Kong conducted in 1982, in which 70 per cent of 998 surveyed said they wished Hong Kong would maintain its status quo after 1997.

As the second most popular option, 15 per cent said Hong Kong should become a trust territory under the United Nations.

Only four per cent said Hong Kong should be taken back by China and be ruled under Chinese administration.

The exam paper asked students to analyse Hongkongers’ concerns over the city’s future based on the poll.

The paper also contained part of the lyrics of the 1990 song by Sam Hui which urged Hong Kong people not to move to foreign countries. It asked students to discuss whether the concerns they found after analysing the poll still existed in 1990 by referring to the song.

Finally, it asked students to comment on the statement: “The question of Hong Kong’s future raised Hongkongers’ political consciousness” by referring to the materials and their knowledge of Hong Kong development until 1997.

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Hong Kong history exam probes Communist Party's changing line on democracy, pre-handover fears