HK textbooks on territorial sovereignty should meet national standards: education association chief

By Chen Qingqing and Bai Yunyi (Global Times) 11:13, March 07, 2024

A cross-border student in Hong Kong had a page depicting a map of China in a Hong Kong-published Chinese history textbook page torn out by mainland customs while crossing the border, local media HK01.com reported on Wednesday. "The map referred to the Diaoyu Islands as 'Diaoyutai' and did not display the 'ten-dash line' in the South China Sea," the media report said.

In response to the incident, Wong Kam-leung, a deputy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to the National People's Congress who is also the chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers (HKFEW), told the Global Times on Wednesday that it shows that Hong Kong still has room for improvement in its textbook approval process.

When it comes to content involving territory or sovereignty, Hong Kong's textbooks should align with the "national standards," he said.

The textbook in question is a Chinese history textbook published by Modern Educational Research Society, titled "Modern and Interesting Chinese History (Volume II)," according to the media report. Starting last week, the same page from this textbook belonging to other students was also removed by customs, the report said.

The removal of this page might be because the map printed on it violates Chinese law, such as referring to "Diaoyu Island" as "Diaoyutai." As of the press time, the publisher did not respond to the incident.

Wong told the Global Times that this incident indicates that more "check work" should be in place regarding content related to territory and sovereignty in Hong Kong's textbook approval process. The Education Bureau of the HKSAR should strengthen communication and establish clearer standards for the use of maps in textbooks.

"Hong Kong's textbooks, when involving important issues such as territorial sovereignty, should align with national standards," he stressed.

For the past two years, Wong said that he has been suggesting that Hong Kong should establish an education system that is compatible with One Country, Two Systems principle.

Textbooks involving the content at the national level in Hong Kong, such as significant issues concerning national history, should promote unified standards to avoid misleading errors and omissions. This is also necessary for Hong Kong to integrate into the country's overall development. In this regard, he also hoped that the country could provide more assistance to Hong Kong.

However, this does not mean that Hong Kong textbooks have to be identical to those on the Chinese mainland. Under the One Country, Two Systems, Hong Kong textbooks can have their unique features, which does not contradict aligning with the national standards on issues such as territorial sovereignty, Wong stressed.

The textbook "Modern and Interesting Chinese History (Volume II)" passed the review in 2020 and was listed in the Education Bureau's applicable book list for the 2023/24 academic year, according to the media report.

Following the incident, the Education Bureau responded that it had immediately contacted the relevant schools to gather relevant information and provide appropriate support. And the bureau said the map published in the textbook contains parts that are "inconsistent" with the map data shown on the 2023 edition of the standard map of China released by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Since the textbook was published years ago, the map data did not fully comply with the country's latest requirements for teaching maps, according to the reports.

The bureau said it will promptly notify the publishing house to update the map and will also notify other publishers to review published textbooks. If any outdated map data are found, appropriate follow-up actions must be taken.

The bureau also reiterated that Hong Kong textbooks are subject to a rigorous review mechanism and clear compilation guidelines, explaining how publishers should write textbooks to align with the aims of Hong Kong's school curriculum, providing Hong Kong students with high-quality learning and teaching resources.

Publishers are responsible for promptly correcting or clarifying any errors, outdated information, or areas for improvement in textbooks at any time.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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