Schools in Hong Kong have been told that they must remove books and teaching materials that could violate the sweeping national security law that was imposed by Beijing last week, sparking concerns over mounting censorship in the city.
The Education Bureau on Monday ordered schools to review all reading materials in the curriculum. The move comes on the same day that police were given expansive new investigative and surveillance powers over the territory and its citizens, including internet and publishing platforms.
“If any teaching materials have content which is outdated or involves the four crimes under the law, unless they are being used to positively teach pupils about their national security awareness or sense of safeguarding national security, otherwise if they involve other serious crime or socially and morally unacceptable act, they should be removed,” the Education Bureau said in a statement.
“School management and teachers should review all learning and teaching materials in a timely manner, including books,” the statement added.
The national security law dramatically broadens the powers of local and mainland authorities to investigate, prosecute and punish dissenters. It criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers and those who are convicted of such crimes can face sentences of up to life in prison.
Part of the new law includes the introduction of “national security education” in schools and universities. The last time Hong Kong tried to introduce Chinese civic education into local schools in 2012, tens of thousands of people protested on the streets, arguing it constituted mainland propaganda.
The directive to schools comes after several political activists reportedly had their books removed from public libraries in the city over the weekend.
Public libraries suspended loaning out several titles, with the library’s website listing them as “under review” on Saturday, according to public broadcaster RTHK.
Among the titles are two books written by Joshua Wong, the prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist who helped lead the 2014 Umbrella Movement mass protests, and one from pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan.
Speaking to CNN on Monday, Wong said fundamental rights were being eroded the the city.
“If basic freedom still exists under the national security law, how come the book I published when I was still in high school was banned in the Hong Kong public library?” he said. “It’s not only about the political rights any more. It’s not only about the rights of protesters. It’s about the fundamental freedom or liberty that everyone cherish in this city, being eroded and fade out already.”