Studying on the mainland will enrich the lives of Hong Kong's youth

Susan Chan says studying or working on the mainland can only enrich the lives of Hong Kong's youth, contrary to what some critics might think

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 6:23pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 1:37am

Young Hong Kong singer Gloria Tang Zhi-kei, better known as G.E.M., recently made her mark in a popular mainland singing contest. Though a rising star in Hong Kong, she was unknown to most on the mainland, yet after the first two rounds of the contest, the number of her weibo fans shot up by 170,000 in a day and has now reached six million.

Tang has not changed her style, nor did she pick a particular song to please mainland audiences, but people have been impressed by her talent as a singer-songwriter. As such, she now enjoys a bigger stage to showcase her talent and promote the music she likes.

For decades, Hong Kong has seen its youngsters going after their dreams overseas. In 2011, it was estimated that there were 75,000 Hong Kong students aged 25 and below studying outside the city. Studying or working abroad gives people more than a degree or a job, it gives them the opportunity to experience different cultures and enrich their lives.

Hong Kong cannot, of course, make everyone's dream come true. None of our colleges offers a vet programme, for example, and one surely cannot run a ranch or join an army here.

It is only normal that, within a country, people move around to find the best place for their talent, future lifestyle plans and the like. It would be hard to think that all people born in London would stay there all their lives. Hong Kong is no different. Our youngsters go abroad - and, of course, to the mainland since the opening up of the China market. If talented youth from overseas are benefiting from the opportunities the mainland offers, why shouldn't our young people?

China is a vast country with different cultures and different people. You cannot get a full picture of it by just watching the news, surfing the internet or going on short trips. Studying or working on the mainland will provide young Hongkongers with the chance to come into contact with people from different areas of China, to understand their thinking and learn other ways of doing things. This will benefit their development; after all, companies, including multinationals, are increasingly seeking out those with knowledge of both China and the West.

Of course, we want to retain our talent but we should also support our young people who want to broaden their horizons and realise their potential. Through interactions with locals, these young people can become our ambassadors and enable those overseas to learn more about our city and its people.

I went to high school in a small city in Canada and the students there came to know about this city through Hong Kong students studying there. This can happen on the mainland, allowing youngsters to truly understand one another rather than viewing each other through the often narrow prism of the news and the internet.

Talent flows freely through any international city. Yet, some in Hong Kong seem to have negative feelings about anything related to the mainland. They claim that encouraging our youngsters to explore career opportunities across the border is equivalent to forcing them to leave their home city, and once there, believe they will be brainwashed. Such an island mentality can only do harm, limiting opportunities for the next generation.

Susan Chan is secretary general of the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong