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Over 45,000 students in Hong Kong have taken the inaugural university exam for the Citizenship and Social Development (CS) subject in April. With the aim of “optimizing” senior secondary core subjects and address “deviations” in core subject implementation, the Hong Kong Education Bureau first introduced CS during the 2021-2022 academic year to replace Liberal Studies (LS), the mandatory senior secondary school curriculum aimed at strengthening students’ critical thinking skills and social awareness.

This new curriculum, designed to “deepen [the] understanding and sense of identity of individuals with Chinese nationality and Chinese citizenship”, includes a compulsory field trip to the mainland. It has faced criticism from educators and students alike for its attempt to depoliticize exam questions and potentially stifle open discussion in the classroom. Unlike previous LS exams, which encouraged students to explore multiple sides of issues and entertain diverse perspectives, this inaugural HKDSE CS exam focused heavily on students’ capacity to describe and explain topics such as the development of the Greater Bay Area, the National Anthem Ordinance, and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.


Education is inherently political. Liberal Studies, once lambasted by former Chief Executive Carrie Lam as a breeding ground for youth radicalism, has long been criticized by government officials and pro-establishment figures. In the wake of the 2019 Anti-Extradition Bill Movement, Hong Kong’s education system has undergone a significant shift, with increased focus on national security and the cultivation of a sense of patriotism among students. The CS subject acts as yet another piece of evidence of the Hong Kong SAR’s belief that young people’s critical thinking ability constitutes a direct challenge to state authority. For example, the inclusion of a compulsory field trip to the mainland that is often organized in collaboration with pro-Beijing organizations raises concerns over the true motives of the city’s educational reform and its attempts to further patriotic education initiatives. To some observers, this CS curriculum can be viewed as a form of nationalist indoctrination, designed to inculcate students with values aligned to the CCP’s agenda for China while suppressing dissent.



As Hong Kong is seeing a devastating increase in political persecution, we will continue to pave the way to a free Hong Kong.

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