How the Communist Party plans to win young Hongkongers’ hearts and minds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2017, 2:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2017, 11:19pm

The Chinese Communist Party’s youth wing aims to stir national and cultural identity beyond the mainland with plans to offer business and job opportunities to young people in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

The economic incentives are part of the league’s first mid and long-term youth development plan covering the spectrum, from rights and education to marriage and social security.

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“[We will] help the youth in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan shape their identity with the culture of the motherland and the correct knowledge of ‘one country, two systems’,” a league statement said.

The plan aims to bridge young people’s cultural backgrounds by “being inclusive of differences, removing barriers and improving sense of identity”.

Beijing’s attempts to reach out the younger generation come after social movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan reflected a desire for a stronger local identity.

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In March, at the annual session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, the body’s chairman, Yu Zhengsheng, called on delegates to engage Taiwan’s grass roots and youth.

He also urged the political advisers to help promote study tours and further study on the mainland to Hong Kong youth.

League chief Qin Yizhi said on Wednesday morning there had been more than 140,000 “exchanges” between the three regions, central government agencies and key provinces such as Fujian and Guangdong, but there was still more work to do.

“We will try to include more and more Hong Kong and Macau young people in such exchanges. We will also improve the effectiveness of such exchanges based on the actual needs of the young people,” Qin said.

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He said several areas, including the Qianhai special zone in Shenzhen and Zhuhai’s Hengqin New Area, had already set up platforms to help young people from Hong Kong and Macau find jobs or start their own firms, he said.

The league would also turn to new media to promote Chinese history and culture to Hong Kong and Macau youth, he added.

In Hong Kong, the city’s youngest lawmaker said work opportunities would not translate into patriotism.

Legislative Council member Nathan Law Kwun-chung, a key student leader during the 2014 Occupy movement, said: “Money cannot buy the hearts of people.”

“As long as China’s standards on the rule of law and human rights fall short of those in Hong Kong, a sense of [national pride] will not be fostered among Hong Kong’s next generations,” Law said.

He said Hong Kong’s education authorities had already implemented similar policies.

The plan, the country’s first targeting youth as a single group, promotes the idea of the party leading the youth and insists that youth development is key to the country’s overall advancement.

It will be overseen by the party’s Central Committee and rolled out in a joint-ministerial drive, coordinated by the youth league.

Additional reporting by Stuart Lau