China state media: Hong Kong schools have become 'lawless'

This article is more than 12 months old

Controversy builds over history question in exam, two officials resign

HONG KONG: Chinese state media said Hong Kong schools have become "lawless" as controversy builds over a history question in a school examination, rekindling tensions over academic freedoms in the semi-autonomous city.

Beijing and some Hong Kong officials have frequently flagged the education system as a potential breeding ground for the large-scale pro-democracy protests that roiled the city in the second half of last year.

The latest row was sparked by a question on a diploma of secondary education test that asked students to argue whether Japan had done "more good than harm to China during the period between 1900 and 1945".

A Xinhua commentary published late Friday said Hong Kong schools had failed to "decolonise" and the territory's education system had not developed in line with the "one country, two systems" rule.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under an agreement with former colonial master Britain that the city would have a high degree of autonomy and enjoy some freedoms unavailable on the mainland.

"The schools seem to have become a lawless place that can unscrupulously promote heresies, attack the 'one country, two systems' and discredit the nation state," Xinhua wrote on its website. "Some immature students have been tricked into use by the anti-China forces and have become pawns to disrupt Hong Kong."

Hong Kong Education Secretary Kevin Yeung has asked the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) to find out why the question was part of the history exam, taken by 5,200 students, and asked for it to be invalidated. The question "hurt the feelings and dignity of the Chinese people who suffered great pain during the Japanese invasion of China," he said.

Public broadcaster RTHK reported on Saturday that two officials from the HKEAA had resigned over the controversy.

In an interview with pro-Beijing publication Ta Kung Pao, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last week the government would examine the future structure of the subject, which is part of the university entrance exams curriculum.

An attempt by the government to introduce "national education" in Hong Kong in 2012 to instil patriotism and promote appreciation of mainland China was met with large protests and scrapped.

In a separate development, China's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday the US needed to stop the "unreasonable suppression" of Chinese companies, and a Chinese newspaper said the government was ready to retaliate against the US.

The Trump administration on Friday moved to block global chip supplies to blacklisted telecoms equipment company Huawei Technologies, spurring fears of Chinese retaliation.

China will firmly defend its companies' legal rights, the foreign ministry said in a statement in response to questions on whether Beijing would take retaliatory measures against the US.

China's Global Times newspaper on Saturday quoted a source close to the Chinese government as saying that Beijing was ready to take a series of countermeasures, such as putting US companies on an "unreliable entity list" and imposing restrictions on US companies. - REUTERS