Why does China deny that Hong Kong was a UK colony?

BEIJING (AP) – Hong Kong is preparing to introduce new textbooks for middle schools that will deny that Chinese territory was ever a British colony. Chinese Communist rulers claim that the semi-autonomous city and the nearby former Portuguese colony of Macau were simply occupied by foreign powers and that China has never given up sovereignty over them.

It’s not a new stance for China, but the move is a further example of Beijing’s determination to strengthen its interpretation of history and events and inculcate patriotism while strengthening its hold on Hong Kong following massive protests calling for democracy. in 2019.

“Hong Kong has been Chinese territory since ancient times,” says a new textbook seen by the AP. “While Hong Kong was occupied by the British after the Opium War, it remained Chinese territory.”

It is one of four series of textbooks offered to schools to replace those currently in use, all claiming the same stance, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported earlier this week.


Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841 until its handover to Chinese rule in 1997, with the exception of the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945. Its colonial status was the result of a couple of 19th century treaties signed at the end of the former. and the second Opium Wars, along with the granting of a 99-year lease in 1898 to the New Territories, which greatly expanded the size of the colony.

The Communist Party of China, which took power during a civil war in 1949, claims it never recognized what it calls the “unequal treaties” the former Qing dynasty was forced to sign following military defeats.

In the late 20th century, with China reluctant to extend the lease of the New Territories and the colony not viable without them, Britain began protracted and often controversial negotiations with Beijing over the conditions for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

Eventually, China took control of Hong Kong in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement that would keep the city’s economic, political and judicial systems distinct from those of mainland China for 50 years. British joint statement registered with the United Nations, although China now refuses to recognize the deal.


In 1972, a few months after the Chinese headquarters moved to the United Nations in Beijing from the government of the Republic of China who fled to Taiwan during the civil war, the government took action to remove Hong Kong and Macao, which returned to Chinese rule in 1999, from a United Nations list of colonies, effectively depriving them of their right to self-determination.

At a time when European nations had granted independence to other colonies, China feared the same could happen to the British and Portuguese enclaves it wished to have back. “The resolution of the Hong Kong and Macao issues falls entirely within the sovereign law of China and does not fall into the ordinary category of ‘colonial territories’ at all,” the Chinese representative said at the time.

Mary Gallagher, who teaches Chinese at the University of Michigan, said then Chinese leader Mao Zedong wanted to make sure Hong Kong remained part of China. “So Hong Kong moves between the Chinese empire and the British empire, but it loses the right to determine its own future,” she said.


The new textbooks are part of broader changes to education following the 2019 protests, which were attended by many students and some played leadership roles.

The texts are for the liberal studies classes, which the government revised last year after pro-Beijing lawmakers and supporters said they encouraged opposition and activist thinking. Classes now focus on issues such as national security, patriotism and identity.

The textbooks promote the official view that the protest movement was the result of foreign unrest and threatened national security. The Beijing government used these arguments to pass a radical national security law for Hong Kong in 2020 limiting free speech, criticism of the authorities and political opposition.

Authorities launched a national security education day on April 15, with students encouraged to learn more about national security and take part in educational activities that emphasize the importance of protecting China.


The new textbooks are part of a push to bring Hong Kong’s institutional values ​​closer to those of mainland China, especially in the areas of politics and history. Increasingly, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is imposing on the region his vision of a strongly nationalist and increasingly authoritarian government.

China has tried to eradicate any remembrance of the bloody 1989 army crackdown of student-led protests centered on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, citing concerns over the pandemic once banning huge public commemorations in Hong Kong on the 4 th anniversary. June.

“The Communist Party has a monopoly on truth and history in China,” said Steve Tsang, a specialist in Chinese politics at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. “In Xi’s approach to history, the facts are just random. He only matters the interpretation. And only one interpretation is allowed. “