Hong Kong history exam setter quits months after controversy raged over question on Japan’s relationship with China

Chan Ho-him
·4-min read

A Hong Kong exam authorities employee involved in the setting of history public exam papers has resigned three months after a controversial question was scrapped, the Post has learned.

Hans Yeung Wing-yu, a history subject assessment development manager at the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), had also been accused by pro-Beijing media outlets over “inappropriate comments” made on his private Facebook account, just a day before the controversy over the history question unfolded in May.

The question had asked students whether Japan did “more good than harm to China” in the first half of the 20th century.

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Yeung’s decision to quit was the third resignation by an HKEAA employee related to accusations made by pro-Beijing media, and the history question.

Some 5,000 students sat the history exam for the Diploma of Secondary Education this year. Photo: Handout
Some 5,000 students sat the history exam for the Diploma of Secondary Education this year. Photo: Handout

One of Yeung's posts, written in Chinese, reportedly said: “If there was no Japanese occupation, would there be a new China? Have you forgotten your origins?”

His remarks referred to a news report about a man in mainland China who was arrested for wearing a Japanese army uniform to his wedding.

Yeung was believed to be implying that the Japanese invasion during the second world war paved the way for the Chinese Communist Party’s rise to power.

Within hours of his comments being made public, the Education Bureau had asked the exam authority — an independent, self-financing statutory body — to investigate Yeung’s comments, along with other “inappropriate remarks” made by another HKEAA employee online, who later resigned.

A source familiar with the situation confirmed to the Post on Saturday that Yeung had resigned, but the source said Yeung did not cite reasons for his resignation, nor the effective date of his departure, in an email to colleagues this week.

Debates on potential good from invasions have historical precedent in tests

An authority spokeswoman said it would not comment on personnel changes.

The Education Bureau said it had not been informed of Yeung’s resignation, but added the exam body could handle relevant personnel matters through its own internal procedures.

At the centre of the row was the compulsory history question which asked about 5,000 Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam candidates if they agreed Japan “did more good than harm to China” between 1900 and 1945, with reference to two reading material excerpts, and their own knowledge.

The question sparked outrage among some politicians, as well as Beijing’s foreign ministry in the city, prompting the bureau’s unprecedented request that the question be scrapped, which the exam authority did a week later.

Yeung’s role at the HKEAA is believed to have involved the development of question papers for public exams in history, as well as the grading processes.

Three Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority employees have resigned so far in relation to the history exam. Photo: May Tse
Three Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority employees have resigned so far in relation to the history exam. Photo: May Tse

Many students and teachers believed it was unnecessary to remove the question, saying there was room for discussion on the subject, and raising concerns it would be unfair to those candidates who spent time working on it.

Another authority employee who resigned after being attacked by pro-Beijing media, and his subordinate, are expected to officially leave their posts on Sunday.

Lo Ka-yiu, a senior assessment development manager at the exam authority, was targeted over social media posts said to show his anti-government political leanings.

Lo, who worked on liberal studies, was accused over Facebook remarks that called for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to step down.

Beijing loyalists have often blamed liberal studies, which aims to foster critical thinking skills and covers topics including contemporary Hong Kong and modern China, for encouraging violent protests among young people.

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