Southern row bearing on ultra-sensitive

Editorial | Mary Ma 25 Apr 2018

A vigorous exercise by Education Secretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung's team to purge every bit of possible politically incorrect expression in the history textbooks for secondary students is a typical example of something that is much ado about nothing. Is the exercise merited at all?

My jaw dropped along with many others when I heard him saying it's inappropriate to state Hong Kong is located in southern China. That's probably the most asinine statement I've ever heard!

Where is Hong Kong then if not in southern China? It's a geographical fact.

What's equally astounding is he doesn't deny the fact, but claimed there's ambiguity in the description, which - according to him - could be understood as Hong Kong being located "within" southern China, or in the south, but "outside" China.

That's an innovative conclusion that probably only Yeung and his self-proclaimed experts are able to draw.

For more reasonable minds, the expression simply means the SAR is in southern China - just like Guangzhou being situated in southern China, Shanghai in eastern China, Beijing in northeastern China and Urumqi in northern China.

If Hong Kong has to be described as being located "within" southern China, Yeung had better point out to Shanghai mayor Ying Yong the next time he visits him that it's not entirely appropriate for his host to keep telling his guests that Shanghai is located in eastern China.

Would sane people really think of Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and Urumqi as being outside China?

It serves nobody's interest for officials to conjure up too much political correctness - or incorrectness - as they pore over history textbooks, when the texts should be presented without the tampering of political doctrines.

The other example being vigorously discussed: "China insisted on reclaiming the sovereignty of Hong Kong" can also be the subject of an open-ended academic debate.

According to the Basic Law, the official expression should be the "People's Republic of China resumes the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong." That is a politically neutral description that circumvents a shameful chapter in Chinese history.

From a historical perspective, the republic didn't exist until Chairman Mao Zedong founded it in 1949.

It was the Qing dynasty that was blamed for ceding Hong Kong Island and Kowloon peninsula to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 and Convention of Peking in 1860, after losing two separate Opium Wars to the British.

These unfair treaties are historical facts, as they were signed under duress, with British gunboats anchored in our harbor.

While it's Beijing's prevailing political stance not to recognize them, the way the mini-constitution has been written doesn't dispute the history, while not according any official recognition to the agreements. That's the official political expression.

However, mainland officials from as high up as late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to as junior as current Central Liaison Office education head Li Lu have all stressed the need to reclaim the sovereignty over Hong Kong. Were they incorrect?

Would it be inappropriate for Yeung to thumb down the reclamation of sovereignty as unacceptable - since it's been well adopted nationwide over the years?

He and his cohorts have already made themselves look like fools - they should avoid also taking on the trappings of a clown.

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