Hong Kong Education Secretary Kevin Yeung reiterated on June 6 that schools are responsible for ensuring that their libraries do not contain books deemed dangerous to national security.
Yeung’s remarks have raised concerns among Hong Kongers fearing a new wave of self-censorship in schools.
After the implementation of the national security law in mid-2020, the Hong Kong Education Bureau required schools to regularly review their library collections and remove books deemed to endanger national security, such as those covering the 2019 Hong Kong protests, pro-democracy topics and the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.
Books removed from school libraries must be destroyed – giving them away is not an alternative according to the instructions received by the schools.
The laws have seen many schools remove large numbers of books from their libraries.
A secondary school in Kowloon East removed at least 204 books from its library, while another school in Tsuen Wan removed 173 from its library shelves, according to Ming Pao, a local newspaper.
The Ming Pao report also said schools were not given clear criteria on which books might be in violation of the law, so teachers must set their own standards. In fear of possible sanctions, schools and teachers have had to censor themselves by removing a wide selection of books covering various political and social movements.
Among the books removed from the shelves are those by renowned scholars, including Ambrose King Yeo-chi, a Hong Kong sociologist and former president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). One of his writings argued that colonial rule and capitalism are the two common threads of Hong Kong. Other scholars whose work has been pulled from library shelves are Ivan Choi and Ma Ngok who both currently work at CUHK—Choy is a senior lecturer and Ma is an associate professor.
These three scholars are used to expressing opinions opposed to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or the ruling authorities in Hong Kong.
But some books on topics perceived as politically sensitive have remained on the shelves if they follow the CCP’s narrative, according to Radio Free Asia.
“Hong Kong has become a place completely manipulated by the CCP,” Zhuge Mingyang, a freelance writer and China expert, told The Epoch Times.
“For decades, people in China have learned to ‘discipline’ themselves in order to survive under the CCP,” Zhuge said.
“Parents and teachers are used to telling children what not to read or say to keep them safe. Now, teachers in Hong Kong have also started to “discipline” themselves.
Hong Kong authorities aim to strengthen the “national identity” of school children through a new curriculum released in December 2021.
Called “brainwashed” by critics, the revised 89-page civic values framework titled “Values Education Curriculum Framework” has been distributed to every school in the city.
The newly revised curriculum will “cultivate a sense of national identity in students…and help them understand their responsibility as Chinese to protect their families and the country”, he said.
Since Beijing imposed the national security law, local schools have gone through several “education” sessions to understand the changes.
According to Education Bureau Circular No. 11/2020 (pdf) issued on July 3, 2020, supervisors and heads of all primary, secondary and kindergartens were required to “timely allow” all levels of school personnel and students to gain understanding and to remind all of these staff and students to comply with national security law.
In Education Bureau Circular No. 3/2021 (pdf), all kindergartens, primary and secondary schools were required to maintain “a safe learning environment that nurtures good citizens”.
Isabel Van Brugen contributed to this report.