Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

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A Corpus‐Based Discourse Analysis of Liberal Studies Textbooks in Hong Kong: Legitimatizing Populism

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Abstract:  Researchers have discussed Hong Kong’s localist identities, nativist sentiments, and populism, but have not widely examined the extent to which populism could be perceived in education in Hong Kong. As the chief participants of the Occupying Central and the radical Anti-Extradition Bill movements in Hong Kong were students, this suggests the need to explore the relationship between populism and education, particularly the then-controversial liberal studies textbooks. According to contemporary news reports, liberal studies textbooks contained much content stigmatising the Chinese mainland. Previous studies of liberal studies textbooks applied qualitative discourse analysis methods. In this study, mixed-method analysis was applied to a specialised corpus comprising seven commercial liberal studies textbooks containing 248,339 Chinese characters in total to explore the extent to which liberal studies textbooks contain information concerning the key features of populism—the heightened division between the inner and outer groups. A division was found between positive images of Hong Kong and negative images of China in the narratives of commercial liberal studies textbooks. Accordingly, the textbooks can be understood to contain populism. The present study advocates that relevant educational watchdogs in Hong Kong provide more guidance on the writing and publishing of liberal studies textbooks in the future, keeping the enquiry-based spirit of the liberal studies course fulfilled, and urges stakeholders of Hong Kong education to consider teaching peace education and developing a more inclusive environment.

Keywords:  corpus linguistics; Hong Kong; liberal studies; populism; textbook


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© Yulong Li, Yuxi Wu, Mingfeng Xiao. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.