Legislator calls for gov’t to invest in team of influencers to push ‘Hong Kong was never a British colony’ narrative

Screengrab of ProtocolOnline’s YouTube video showing Hong Kong’s handover ceremony in 1997.
Screengrab of ProtocolOnline’s YouTube video showing Hong Kong’s handover ceremony in 1997.

A Hong Kong legislator has called for the city’s Education Bureau to invest in a team of online influencers to push a narrative that Hong Kong was never a British colony. 

At a meeting of the Legislative Council’s education panel on Tuesday, panel chairman Priscilla Leung referred to the recent controversy surrounding how new textbooks for the upper secondary subject of citizenship and social development are stating that the territory was never a British colony but that the British “only exercised colonial rule” in Hong Kong — a major change from what students have been taught in the city’s schools for many decades.

Leung, who is a lawmaker representing the Election Committee constituency and a lawyer by training, claimed that the treaties that ceded the territory to Britain close to two centuries ago are unfair and are not recognized by China or under international law. 

But she said that she realized a lot of people on the internet have been smearing those who she believed were telling the truth, saying they were rewriting history. 

Hence, she called for the bureau to invest in a team of internet users to spread what she deemed to be “correct knowledge.”

“Too many teenagers only look at what’s on the internet,” said Leung.

“Do you have an internet water army to spread correct knowledge on the internet?” she asked of the bureau.

The term water army refers to writers paid to post comments on websites and social media in order to influence public opinion.

Leung added that the bureau did not need to be “so rigid” in its education methods as people get information from everywhere now. 

In response, Secretary for Education Christine Choi said the bureau does not have the resources to set up such a team, but added it works toward enhancing students’ information literacy so that they can do fact checking and separate right from wrong.

The change of narrative in the textbooks is seen as the latest move by Beijing to strengthen its control over Hong Kong, which was under British rule from 1841 to 1941, and from 1945 to 1997.

However, many Hongkongers do not buy the rhetoric, choosing instead to believe in what they were taught growing up or what they view as more authoritative sources. 

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