The current Hong Kong administration has no plans to introduce national education in schools, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung has said.

“I think this administration will not be thinking about setting up national education as its own subject,” Yeung told RTHK on Thursday.

Kevin Yeung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.
Kevin Yeung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

However, he did not completely dismiss the possibility of national education, saying that the government is looking into implementing it “in a way Hong Kong people can accept.”

In 2012, more than 120,000 people took to the streets to protest plans for a patriotic education curriculum. It led to the proposal being scrapped by then-chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Yeung’s statement on Wednesday also appeared to be a retreat from his position last August, where he said implementing national education was “a must.”

Compulsory Chinese history

In the interview, Yeung also expressed his support for Chinese history as a compulsory subject for junior high-school students, though he said it was not a “replacement” for national education.

Anti-national education curriculum protest.
Anti-national education curriculum protest in 2012. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“We are Chinese people, we need to have some understanding of our origins and our country’s history,” Yeung said.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam confirmed in her 2017 Policy Address that Chinese history will be an independent compulsory subject for students aged 12 to 14. Classes will start this September.

Democracy activist Joshua Wong – who first rose to prominence during the 2012 anti-national education protests – told Stand News that Yeung’s latest comments were just a public relations move to improve his approval ratings.

Chinese history textbooks
Chinese history textbooks. Photo: In-Media.

“It is clear he intends to implement national education in small chunks,” Wong said, adding that the autonomy of Hong Kong’s education policy has already been diminished by incidents such as revisions to history textbooks.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.