Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that people should not overreact to a recent review of textbooks by the Education Bureau, saying that the review served to ensure accuracy in the material.

Broadcaster i-Cable found last week that a textbook review group at the Education Bureau had criticised phrases in textbooks, saying that they used inappropriate wording or unclear concepts. The phrases found to be problematic included: “Hong Kong is located south of China” and “the Chinese Communist Party’s one-party rule.”

Lam said the review was done by a committee, and was not conducted by the government or by her. Lam said she did not see any problems after reading the committee’s report.

Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“You can say that we have always used these phrases, so we should just continue using them. But if we can use more accurate words, especially in textbooks, there is no excuse not to,” she said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting.

“I have every confidence that these experts are doing this very important task with that one single objective in mind, and that is to ensure [a] high degree of precision and accuracy in our textbooks.”

She cited former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang, who said the phrase “China took back Hong Kong’s sovereignty” was incorrect.

“China has never given Hong Kong’s sovereignty to a third party. The preamble of the Basic Law also states that the People’s Republic of China will resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong – this is more accurate,” she said.

“I just feel that some people have overreacted to this very important exercise to ensure that the descriptions that we use – especially when we use [them] in textbooks – are accurate.”

Lam said Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung has explained the issue and the public should not view the issue “through coloured spectacles.”

Kevin Yeung. Photo: GovHK.

Last week, Yeung also said that the sentence “Hong Kong is located at China’s southern side” in textbooks should be changed. His comments led lawmakers to accuse him of conducting political censorship.

“[The phrase] is unclear, as there could be different interpretations from the wording,” Yeung said.

“It could mean the southern side outside China, it could mean the southern side within China’s borders – this is unclear from the wording, so it has to be changed,” he said.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.