A Hong Kong primary school has apologized after students as young as six were left in tears last week after teachers showed them disturbing video footage of the Nanjing massacre ahead of the 84th anniversary of Monday’s massacre.
The incident came after the Education Bureau called on local schools to conduct activities to commemorate the massacre in a directive last month.
Po Leung Kuk Taoist Association Yuen Yuen Primary School showed footage of the executions and corpses during the Nanjing massacre of its youngest pupils during a class on moral and civic education, according to local media reports.
The five-minute clip, which was pulled from an RTHK documentary about the massacre, showed Japanese soldiers executing civilians, and piles of corpses, including children. The passage was included in educational materials proposed by the Education Office to commemorate the massacre.
The Nanjing Massacre, which lasted from December 1937 to January 1938, saw the mass murder and rape of hundreds of thousands of residents in Nanjing by Imperial Japanese forces for six weeks during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Beijing often refers to the massacre to stoke nationalist anger against Japan.
The school later expressed “regret” about the incident in response to complaints from concerned parents.
“We learned that some of the kids were upset,” he said in an email from last Friday. “From now on, our school will be more careful, carefully consider children’s feelings, and adjust teaching materials according to each grade.”
The school added that it will continue to take into account the feelings of students by applying education to national identity and civic responsibility. The Guardian has reached out to the school for comment.
Hong Kong education authorities have sought to distance themselves from the incident. A spokesperson told The Guardian on Monday that there is no requirement for schools to show submitted materials to a full group. The office added that teachers should use their professional judgment and provide appropriate guidance when teaching students about the war.
“After reading the information provided by the Education Office, teachers can select appropriate textbooks or select appropriate sections according to the age and mental development of students,” the office said in an emailed statement.
She added that the video was publicly available, and contains warnings that the images may be disturbing to some viewers.
The incident also comes amid a broader campaign by authorities to promote a sense of Chinese identity and love for the motherland among students after Beijing imposed a national security law last summer.
Earlier this month, the Education Bureau released a comprehensive new national curriculum and guidelines for all local schools.