Hong Kong’s Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office spent HK$31 million funding 79 studies into the 2019 protests but decided not to disclose their findings for fear of legal risks, the Hong Kong Economic Journal (HKEJ) has reported.

Meanwhile, government-approved textbooks for the revamped liberal studies said there were “violent terrorist acts” during the anti-extradition unrest when introducing the background of Beijing’s implementation of the national security law.

Hongkongers marched on the street on June 9, 2019. Photo: May James.

According to a report by HKEJ published on Thursday, the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office funded 79 studies in 2020 into the previous year’s protests to investigate topics such as public opinion towards violence or “mutual destruction,” people’s participation in the making of public policies, as well as reasons behind “recent social incidents.”

Although the office’s website said the findings of government-funded studies would be made public “to enhance transparency,” it reportedly told HKEJ that the research in question was for “internal reference.”

According to HKEJ, all 79 reports had been completed but were kept private because the office was worried about legal risks.

Photo: GovHK.

A scholar who participated in some of the studies told the newspaper that the research topics were decided before the enactment of the national security law, and concerns about breaching the law might be the reason behind the government’s decision.

Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

New textbooks

The city’s Education Bureau updated its Recommended Textbook List last week and revealed that it had approved seven textbooks from six publishers for the new high school subject Citizenship and Social Development.

The new course has been taught to some students since last September. It replaced Liberal Studies, which some pro-Beijing figures said was responsible for young people’s participation in the protests.

Secondary school students. File photo: GovHK.

Local media, including Ming Pao and Sing Tao, reported on the content of some of the recently approved textbooks on Monday.

When introducing the backdrop behind Beijing’s implementation of the national security law, the textbook published by Hong Kong Educational Publishing stated that “the 2019 anti-extradition unrest involved various illegal violent terrorist acts… severely endangering the nation’s sovereignty, security and developmental interest.”

Meanwhile, textbooks from Modern Educational Research Society and Aristo Educational Press both said that there were “serious violent incidents” in 2019. The former said “the central government believes these activities were related to foreign interference,” while the latter said that opposition and groups advocating independence had requested interventions or sanctions from foreign forces.

All four sample books said “Hong Kong was never a colony,” as the United Nations had removed the city from its list of “Non-Self-Governing Territories” per China’s request in 1972.

Riot police on June 12, 2019. File photo: May James.

Some added that although the city was under British colonial rule, Chinese governments after Qing Dynasty never gave up sovereignty of the city or recognised the “unequal treaties.”

Hongkongers mark 2019 protests abroad

On Sunday, Hongkongers overseas held assemblies and rallies across different cities in the world to mark the third anniversary of the June 12 protest.

On that date, the legislature was scheduled to discuss the controversial extradition bill amendment for the second time, just three days after march organisers said an estimated 1 million protesters took to the streets to voice their opposition.

Clashes between protesters and riot police occurred outside the complexes of Central Government Offices and the Legislative Council in Admiralty. Some Hongkongers mark the date as the beginning of the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest.

Three years on, thousands gathered at London’s Parliament Square to commemorate the event. Rallies or assemblies were also held in Taiwan, Vancouver, and Washington, as well as other cities internationally.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.