The politics of civic education in Hong Kong: The contest between conservatism and liberalism

Yan Wing LEUNG, Wai Wa Timothy YUEN, Siu Keung George NGAI

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


It has been argued that there are two contesting versions of civic education in the school curriculum in Hong Kong, the depoliticised version, which contains little political content, and the politicised version, which emphasises the teaching of politics in the curriculum. Based on the typologies of citizenship by Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne, which include the personal responsible citizen, participatory citizen and social justice oriented citizen, this paper re-analyses the relevant policy documents of Hong Kong’s civic education and argues that the depoliticised version of civic education is in fact one of the two strategies of politicisation, albeit in a conservative orientation. It minimises the political dimensions and magnifies the moral dimension of civic education in order to keep students away from talking about politics. But when addressing political issues is inevitable, in facing the return of Hong Kong sovereignty to the People Republic of China and the growing concern for democratic development in HKSAR, for example, it adopts the second strategy and proposes a kind of civic education with teaching of politics undertaken with a conservative undertone. Occasionally these two strategies are used simultaneously. This orientation is supported by the conservative pro-establishment groups aiming at cultivating uncritical, personal responsible citizens or patriots by minimizing the political awareness of people and encouraging passivity for easier social control. On the other hand, politicized civic education of a liberal orientation supports the cultivation of critical and participatory citizens, and advocates civic education with emphases on social justice, democracy and human rights. They are supported by the pro-democracy sectors of the civil society. The competition between the two versions of politicization (conservative versus liberal) in civic education curriculum reflects the tensions in the development of civic education in the post-1997 context. In turn, it further reflects the complexity of how far the People of Republic of China central government permits the democratic development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012


Leung, Y. W., Yuen, T. W. W., & Ngai, G. S. K. (2012, May). The politics of civic education in Hong Kong: The contest between conservatism and liberalism. Paper presented at the 76th Annual and the fourteenth Conference of the Children’s Identity and Citizenship in Europe Erasmus Academic Network, University of York, York, UK.


  • Political education in Hong Kong
  • Politics of civic education
  • Civic education in Hong Kong
  • Politicization and moralization of civic education


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