History’s future in Hong Kong’s schools



Prof. LAU Chi-pang


For much of its existence Hong Kong has seemed like a place that only looked ahead, often for the next deal or opportunity for economic advancement. Many old photographs show rows of grand colonial-era buildings that have since been demolished to make way for the modern city’s gleaming commercial skyscrapers.


Professor Lau Chi-pang from Lingnan's Department of History has always had a keen research interest in Hong Kong’s past, however, and in recent years he has found that a growing number of people share his enthusiasm. Believing that, today, it is more important than ever for young Hongkongers to also know as much as possible about their and their city’s roots, Professor Lau led a team from Lingnan in developing the Jockey Club Hong Kong History Learning Programme (JCHKHLP). Their unique, three-year undertaking has generated a vast collection of teaching and learning resources about the city’s history, that are now available to all local primary and secondary school students and teachers.


Chronologically, the teaching kits cover the period from the Stone Age up to, and a little beyond, the 1997 handover. The material is organised into 75 themes, focused on everything from archaeology to Hong Kong’s political, social and cultural development. More than half the topics covered by the JCHKHLP were developed from scratch and the main challenges for Professor Lau and his team arose when there were no secondary sources available – as, for example, in some New Territories-related matters for which there are no written records in existence. The project was completed last year and the materials are now also available to the public on the Lingnan website.


While the tragic and dramatic events that marked the Japanese Occupation and the 1967 Riots have created a great deal of interest, the JCHKHLP includes a number of lesser known but fascinating stories that many young Hongkongers may have been unaware of.


One such story concerns Chung Ying Street in Sha Tau Kok. Only 250 metres long, its beginning and end marked by simple border stones, this street formed part of the front line between the Eastern and the Western Blocs during the Cold War, with one side lying on the Mainland and the other in Hong Kong.


Despite the potential for conflict, from the 1950s to the 1970s Chung Ying Street was patrolled only by police officers from either side. In the 1980s, after China opened its doors to the world, and before Shenzhen began to grow into the metropolis it is today, people from all over the Mainland flocked to this ‘restricted area’. At its peak of popularity around 100,000 visitors per day crammed into what was essentially a free market, looking to buy goods that were then unavailable on the Mainland. Among the most popular foreign commodities was Lux soap. 


Despite the generous backing of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust the JCHKHLP materials are currently only available in Chinese, and Professor Lau hopes that it will be possible to create an English language version when further funding becomes available.


To know more about Professor LAU Chi-pang research projects, please click Lingnan Scholars.