Mainland astronauts on a special mission to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 July, 2010, 12:00am

The mainland's six astronauts will visit Hong Kong at the end of the month on educational programmes arranged by the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.

All have previously come to Hong Kong individually after their respective missions but this will be the first time they will make a combined visit.

No details have been disclosed, but it is likely the visit will be part of this year's young astronaut training camp in Hong Kong, which starts next month and is one of the activities organised by the chamber to celebrate its 110th anniversary.

At a chamber function yesterday, veteran pro-Beijing politician, Tsang Hin-chi, said: 'The six will come. They are national treasures.'

Asked if he invited the astronauts, Tsang, who is a Hong Kong representative on the National People's Congress Standing Committee, said: 'Don't say it's me. Say it's the chamber.' The chamber held yesterday's function to celebrate its 110th anniversary and a facelift to its building.

The six spacemen due to visit Hong Kong are Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming, Jing Haipeng, Nie Haisheng, Fei Junlong and Yang Liwei. Zhai is a People's Liberation Army Colonel who did a spacewalk in 2008, while Liu and Jing were his fellow Shenzhou VII crewmen.

The three were awarded 800,000 yuan (HK$916,000) each by the Tsang Hin Chi Manned Space Foundation in Hong Kong after their mission.

Nie and Fei circled the Earth for five days aboard the Shenzhou VI capsule, travelling 2 million miles in 115 hours, 32 minutes in 2005. Yang Liwei orbited on Shenzhou V for 211/2 hours in the country's first manned mission in 2003.

In 2003, Tsang, a business leader in Hong Kong, donated HK$100 million to set up a foundation to honour those who make outstanding contributions to China's manned space programme.