New textbooks sent to Hong Kong secondary schools teach that the city was not a British colony, but an occupied territory — a recasting of history that is part of Beijing’s ideological clampdown in the city.

The textbooks seek to head off calls for self-determination in the city following a wave of anti-government protests in 2019, in which some participants called for independence.

“Even [though] Britain occupied Hong Kong . . . the Chinese Government did not recognise such unequal treaties and insisted [on] her sovereignty over Hong Kong,” reads one “exemplar answer” in a textbook released by Modern Educational Research Society, a Hong Kong publisher.

“Therefore, Hong Kong did not satisfy the condition of ‘a country losing sovereignty’ and was not a colony,” the textbook reads.

At least five textbooks sent to Hong Kong secondary schools for pre-publication review stress that the current Chinese government never recognised the historic treaties that ceded the territory to the UK.

Several add that the UN’s removal of Hong Kong from its list of non-self-governing territories in 1972 meant that the global body’s support for resolution on self-rule in colonised places was not applicable to the city.

“This shows that international law confirms that the Hong Kong issue is within the scope of China’s sovereign rights,” reads one Chinese-language textbook from Hong Kong-based Aristo Educational Press.

The books were sent to schools as part of the city’s new “citizenship and social development” course, which last year replaced a liberal studies programme that Beijing loyalists blamed for radicalising students to take part in anti-government protests in 2019.

Hong Kong authorities have been intensifying pressure on schools to take a Chinese nationalist line, a drive that last year prompted the city’s largest teachers’ union to disband.

Britain occupied Hong Kong in 1841 during the first opium war and China’s ruling Qing Dynasty ceded the island the following year. Other than a period of Japanese occupation during the second world war, Britain administered the city as a colony and dependent territory until 1997, when it was handed over to the People’s Republic of China.

The Aristo book said Hong Kong was tied to China by virtue of “racial ties”, “cultural heritage”, “language system” and “garrisons”, as well as by economic and political jurisdiction.

The five books are part of a list of seven texts that schools will choose from to use in teaching the new course. They have been vetted by the city’s Education Bureau, and are expected to be in use for senior secondary school students from September.

The textbooks also repeat Beijing’s characterisation of the pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019 as violent riots stoked by “external forces”.

Chan Chi-wa, a secondary school teacher for more than three decades, said that before 2019, textbooks rarely touched on the notion that the city was not a colony, but this viewpoint had been relayed to teachers since last year at seminars held by the education authorities.

“The most difficult part for teachers is to explain to students why when [Hong Kong] was viewed by many as a colony, it no longer is the case now,” said Chan.

Aristo Educational Press, Modern Educational Research Society and Marshall Cavendish Education, which released one of the books, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hong Kong Educational Publishing Company, which released two books, and the Hong Kong Education Bureau declined to comment on the textbooks’ contents.

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