• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 6:01am
NewsHong Kong

Cross-border chaos as children face 4-hour journey to Hong Kong schools

Jams at checkpoints on first day of term mean trip to school for some weary pupils takes 4 hours

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:34pm


  • Yes: 27%
  • No: 73%
3 Sep 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 613

"Will it always be like this?" sighed Sun Yuk-hom, more than an hour late for school on the first day of term yesterday after a 4-1/2-hour journey.

The six-year-old rose at 5am at his home in Longhua, Shenzhen, to get ready.

But despite his early start he did not reach his school in Tai Po until almost 9.30am after delays at the heavily congested Man Kam To border crossing.

"I got up so early but now I'm late," he said. "I'll wake up early every day from now."

His story was typical of many of the 16,000 pupils - 3,000 more than last year - who crossed the border to attend Hong Kong schools. Many were late because of chaos at the crossings, which were jammed with buses ferrying the children to school.

Their plight brought a call for government action to seek ways to ease the journey and reduce the stress on the children.

The driver of Sun's bus - which took 29 pupils to Lam Tsuen Public Wong Fook Luen Memorial School - said there were about 20 nanny buses at Man Kam To, three times the number last year.

Ho Man-keung said it took him an hour to pass through the Shenzhen side because only one bus lane was open. "There were never so many students crossing Man Kam To," he said.

"Maybe the border control officers in Shenzhen didn't expect this either and were quite ill-prepared. The Hong Kong side was much better."

It took him 25 minutes to cross the Hong Kong side.

The International Social Service sent out workers to check five of the six crossings and found pupils, parents, carers and school staff had been there since 6am.

Cheung Yuk-ching, director of the organisation's cross-boundary service programme, said it was chaotic at most crossings, with parents separated from their crying children, carers identifying pupils and school staff waiting anxiously.

"Futian and Shenzhen Bay were especially bad," she said. "There was wave after wave of nanny buses." She said the government should seek ways to improve the situation and provide after-school support.

Schools are under pressure from an influx of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents as well as the children of local families living across the border.

Another pupil at Sun's school, 10-year-old Xu Haiyu, was up at 5.30am and got on a bus that took 33 pupils through the Futian crossing. They were 10 minutes late for the 8.15am assembly.

It then took her three hours to get home to Futian at about 3.30 pm - ending a 10-hour odyssey.

"She looks very tired every day," said Xu's mother, Hong Sixia. "She'll fall asleep immediately after she hits the bed in the evenings at about 8.30pm."

Teacher Chiu Pui-fan said they tended to miss most of the first class - starting at 8.30am - in the first month of every school year because it took time for parents, buses and in-bus caretakers to adapt to the schedule. "Last year, a parent of a cross-border child told me he had nightmares every night," said Chiu. "He didn't get enough sleep and had few friends because he didn't know much Cantonese."

The school has taken about 20 new cross-border children this year in addition to the 60 previously enrolled.

Another bus taking almost 30 pupils to Yan Chai Hospital Choi Hin To Primary School in Tai Po via Futian was also late, and the children missed the school's back-to-school ceremony.

Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim, who visited a school in Tai Po, said the cross-border pupils' journey was generally safe and smooth. Undersecretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung visited three border crossings.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

The problem for these poor children has 2 reasons:
The parents knowingly put their children under the stress of long time journeys instead of sending them to their own district schools nearby where they live.
Hong Kong should only take students on who reside properly in Hong Kong. Just to have a HK ID or being born in Hong Kong cannot be the one and only criteria to be eligible to use public schools financed with Hong Kong's tax payers money (these children's parents are obviously not subject to HK tax with all their income). Our public schools are there for Hong Kong residents and not for Mainland residents who happened to have a HK ID or being born in Hong Kong.
In which country can you visit a public school without residing in the country ? Just to hold the country's passport is usually not good enough.
Access to our public schools should be reserved for residents only. Being born here entitles you to live here but not to attend school if you don't.
Most of these mothers are the same ones who slithered into Hong Kong in their 8th/9th month to cheat the system, then overstayed / waited until they were in labor and in panic rushed to our hospitals' emergency departments in violation of our policies. And now they expect more benefits. Are there no schools in Shenzhen? If there are, keep these young kids in the Mainland school system where they belong and not force them to travel 4 1/2 hours too schools built for Honkongers. Doesn't say much for these Mainland "Mums" does it?
Agree fully with jve's points.....well said and right on!
As stated already, these children have a legitimate right to attend a school in HK if that's what their parents want for them. However, I don't think the government has a responsibility (or at least not the main responsibility) in ensuring they don't get delayed crossing the border. The mentality of the parents of these HK born mainland kids is that they see HK's schools as superior so they send their kids here. Think about this, should the government step in with special transport arrangements if I live in the New Territories and want my child to attend a prestigious school on Hong Kong Island? How about a special passage through the cross harbour tunnels just for NT kids? These mainland parents should realise their kids are already very lucky to have the chance to be educated in HK. But in the end, only they can decide if the costs of this choice outweigh the benefits.
This is not even an issue for the HK people or government to deal with.............these mainlanders choose to have their children attend schools across the border (even though it was stupid of the HK government to have allowed this in the first place). Of course there is going to be travel time of a couple of hours.........What did they expect?.....that there would be a special border crossing for kids from SZ attending schools in HK?...........that is pure ignorance and stupidity and it continues to show sheer incompetence of the HK government in even allowing it to get to this situation.
Who in their right mind would send their child to attend a school that takes 3 to 4 hours of transportation?...............the mainlander's stupidity is beyond belief...........
Indeed. My thoughts precisely. I honestly don't understand it either. We limit use of public hospitals, public housing (obviously), public welfare disbursements, and so on to residents of Hong Kong (permanent or not, as long as they have more than a tourist visa).

The whole policy of allowing people living in Shenzhen whose children happen to have the right of abode in Hong Kong (but they are not using it) to send their children to Hong Kong public schools is completely wrong-headed.
So now we should allow the parents of those illegally in HK born children to reside here as well? Nobody forced the Mainland parents to have birth here in HK and nobody forces them to send their children to HK to school. They could just as easily go to school in Shenzhen. That's a problem created by the parents themselves and the government should not use our tax dollars to help them in any way. There are bigger problems of HK residents to be solved here in HK.
China is great. Achieve the China Dream. Stay in China.
Totally agree with some of the comments below that Hk government is totally useless allowing parents not paying local tax but sending their kids to Hk. Just showing how stupid is our government and how stupid is legco as they pretend they don't see it. The school principals like it as he or she get more work. But why are we subsidizing for them?
Shirley Zhao should know better than to refer this a "Cross-border" issue.
The correct term is "cross-boundary". Borders delineate the separation of countries not zones and regions.
And in case you have forgotten, you, Mainlanders and most Hong Kong residents are all Chinese nationals. Better get used to it!



SCMP.com Account