• Sat
  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 1:43pm
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.


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This article is now closed to comments

For heartless, hate-mainland SCMP readers here, this 5-year old from the mainland on Youtube is anyone but you could love:
What the f! Maybe we should hire this little Chinese boy instead of foul mouth Ms. Lam to teach HK children English.
Chinese students should study in Mainland China. Hong Kong students deserve first priority for schools here.
@mbophui.. i was a HK resident some yrs ago until my parents 'decided' for me to migrate :) my heart is still here in HK.. but i was mainland born like so many of our HK compatriots!!!
They should have known this earlier. They attend HK school for almost free and yet start complaining? Why should more HK taxmoney should be spend to improve their situation? I know that these pupils now have no possibility to attend local school in Shenzhen as they as a HKID cardholder do not have Hukou for Shenzhen. But that is their own fault. Hopefully this serves as a lesson for others who think only for the advantages to give birth in HK.
I see nothing but angelic faces of children in this picture. Readers' consensus here is one of disgust: Send them back to where they belong!
From my Bible class - Knox version - in Form 5 at St. Joseph's College eons ago, some words still ring loud and clear: "Let little children come to me and forbid them not, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
While yours truly, now a faithless geezer, is vilified as an apostate, he is not the least bit annoyed. But the Satanic words from many readers here show how our city has been transformed into a joyless land by a Universal Values Credo and take-no-prisoner Democracy animus that promise a future bleaker than the Cultural Revolution.
Readers understand nothing about rule of law in the West. Yet they render a judicial opinion, and worse, you are hubristic enough to interpret what is or isn't required in Basic Law.
In the absence of customs within common law, we must honor the constitution as the letter of the law. When ambiguities arise, they must be adjudicated in our courts. Final conflicts in judicial opinions are resolved by the nation's Central Committee. This is the process of judicial precedence.
By refusing to implement Article 23 legislation, HKers defy our constitution and deny our courts the opportunity to test the soundness of legislations that must be written in the spirit of Basic Law.
The more readers talk about Basic Law, the more they demonstrate their lawlessness and judicial ignorance.
obviously they sent u to the wrong bible class.. u heartless SOB!!!! should send u to hell instead!!!!!
y our HK goverment is responsible for the cross-boader chaos? It is surely a wastage of HK tax payer money. The best way to avoid being late for school is to study in their country,Mainland. not HK. I understand they have their rights studying in HK but can those parents and students just stop complaining in which they have already known the long time journey to school?
From what you're telling us, you're illiterate. Do you know the name of your country? Do you know the name of your father? If not, ask your mother.
sigh.. just in case u forgot HK is part of China now.. what the fish do you mean ur own country?
You're not from Hong Kong, are you
Simple solution, find a school closer to home! &$%@#!
@keresearch.. not exactly free.. i dont know ur tax bills but 100k for a start is not a small amt!!! these kids parents hv to spend alot more to raise them.. and they arent entitled to public housing.. even for public hospitals i wonder how often do these kids visit them anyways?
Why do we in HK pay tax to educate people who dont live here pay nothing and get a free ride.
to those snobbish HKers the time will come.. in 35 yrs time when the 1 country 2 systems end.. i wish you and your off springs will b treated like live stocks, be it by the mainlanders, S'pore or Canadian gov.. these HK residents born to mainlanders are human beings.. like it or not they are HK residents and permanent one at that!!
But w hy do they want to come here? China is a paradise. You keep telling us how wonderful Communist China is and how we should want to bow to and worship the Masters in Beijing. Why do these people want to come to this backwater when China is so wonderful. 35 years gives people plenty of time to move away from the ****s.
who says anything abt China being a paradise u ignorant SOB!!! the parents obviously wanted the kids outta there.that was why came here to squirt the kids rembember?
But seriously, give all kids a break. Happy children will learn and unhappy ones will not. Perhaps its time for the parents of the kids traveling across the border each day to club together and try to get better schools for their kids in Shenzhen. It would probably be more cost effective for Hong Kong to assist in this; e.g. what about setting up the Hong Kong International Kindergarten in Shenzhen. HK kids, whoever their parents are could be charged the same as if they attended a kindergarten in HK and other kids could be charged full whack. Preference for admission would have to be given to HKID holders. Surely the HK Government and the Mainland authorities could organize this and ensure that a HK curriculum is followed. Or lets simply maintain the status quo and spend inordinate amounts of money and children's time in transporting students across the border each day.
In response to tfung suggestion that we simply move out of Mui Wo.
That's the point isn't it. We are not complaining about the travel. We tolerate it and accept it. But contrast that with what is happening in the Northern NT. Should we say move out of Shenzhen and into HK? Can they? Will they? Actually you and the readers of the SCMP know nothing of the ferry service being closed or of the lengthy journey time for our children. The question is why?
There are two main ethnic Chinese groups that are constantly vilified on these pages - Mainland Chinese and Indigenous Chinese from the NT. You 'Newbie' Hong Kongers resent that your wealth relies on the good will of the Mainland and you resent that the original settlers of Hong Kong, i.e. those who didn't run away from the Mainland because they were not strong enough, are still entitled to a part of the prosperity of Hong Kong. Perhaps you guys, who hate the Mainland and hate the original HK settlers so much should simply move to Canada, if they'll have you.
They already have Canadian "citizenship" but are milking HK for as long as they can since they also have "business" interests across the border as well. When it all dries up, they'll suddenly become flag waving, hockey watching Canadians...
Stupid HK, How could u to this with u kids? If a child too short sleeping, they will been not learning, the brain is too tired, it is a CHILD!!! Not ADULT!!! If you push a child to learn something, the brain will blocked! A child has need a FREE- MIND LEARNING, so they can learned more then you think...
2e) A GOOD Sleeping 10/12 hour for a kids to needed for brain-growth, he can handle more things in the mind... 3e) a good school is important, but a GOOD PARENTS is a MUST! Give them more love and attention... and not a materials or a study, a kinds will learnd if he has this love.. ... ... <3
how is this HK problem? This isnt a government problem in HK, its a problem for Shenzhen and there parents. If SZ public schools were better, these kids would not ahve to goto HK to get an education.
Also if parents complain, move there kids to HK if its all that important to them. If not goto school in Shenzhen.
a kids will learned if he has a love... <3
That's why the more Hong Kong schools should be built closer to the border so as to ease the pressure that the HK local school's now facing as well as the pupils who are weary enough.
Children spend much time on travelling to HK, how do they still concentrate on the lesson they are going to hav?
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.
if the commies on the mainland could amend the Basic Law they could also take away ur HKSAR passports and give u PRC ones :)
Speak Freely - (cont'd). If you are still gung-ho on removing these HK born students with mainland Chinese Parents the right to a HK education, since any amendment to the Basic Law to remove such right will not be considered by the Central govt., the only option left to the SAR govt would be to submit a reinterpretation of the Basic Law to the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress. But again would the Standing Committee of the NPC give the required green light to take away the right to an education in HK to HK born students just because of logistics issues. Im sure you would agree with me China is big on "having face" in the world. Such requests to the Standing Committee of NPC would be a slap on the face of China and turn her into a laugjing stock. The real viable option left is for the mainland authorities and the SAR govts to jointly work out these logistics issues.
As stated below, complete and utter nonsense. There is no such thing in the Basic Law. There is nothing stopping the government from insisting on a simple public policy principle: public services (like education, healthcare, public housing etc) that are provided by a certain municipal, regional or national government are only available to residents of that municipality, region, or nation.

Hong Kong has a separate education (and housing, and healthcare, and so on) policy and a separate budget (including taxation) from the mainland. In short: a different system. One country, two systems remember? To allow residents of one system access to the public services of the other system is pure madness and anybody could have figured out ages ago the kind of problems this would lead to.
Speak Freely - I guess u're not too familiar with the Basic Law of HK which stipulates all HK citizens are entitled to the right to education. Should the HK govt. deny these cross-border students the right to a free education just like the right automatically available
other HK children born to HK parents, the SAR govt will be in breach of the Basic Law. If you want to take away the right of these HK born students whose parents are mainlanders and hence have to commute daily across the border, the only option is to change the Basic Law - which is a non starter since this requires consent from the Central govt. FYI, the central govt have not allowed any amendments to the Basic Law since the founding of the HKSAR.
Where do you come up with the notion that _any_ government is on the hook to educate students come hell or high water?
In HK there is no explicit legal protection for the right to education in the Basic Law. Article 39 applies the United Nations' International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to HK; this Covenant in turn provides for the right to education. Given the convoluted arrangement by which this "right" exists in HK, your premises of 'automatic' availability of education and the government's supposedly cast-iron responsibility to provide the same are far-fetched.
Blatent nonsense. Where does it say this in the Basic Law? There is absolutely nothing in the Basic Law that gives 'Hong Kong citizens' (there is no such thing, but anyway, that is another issue) the right to education. Where do you get stuff from? Dreamt it up yourself I suppose?

Does this imaginary right also apply to 'Hong Kong citizens' in Vancouver? Shall we open schools there too? I invite you reference the article in the Basic Law you think it says this.

You have this completely backwards anyway. There is no ordinance in Hong Kong that stipulates a 'right to education.' Every child in Hong Kong MUST go to school between age 6 and 16, constituting 9 nears of compulsory education: 6 primary school years, and at least 3 secondary school years.

To facilitate this, the government runs schools outright and finances many others. And note that the law applies to ALL children in Hong Kong. It does not matter if they have a permanent right of abode or not, or whether they are Chinese citizens or not. An 8-year old girl from Timbuktu who moves here with her parents on a dependent visa for a year also must attend an acceptable form of schooling, just like anybody else present in HK must obey all local laws or face penalties.

So please stop confounding the issue. The cross-border schooling problem is entirely the result of a flawed policy set up by our the previous CE. And it could be reversed very easily. No need to chang the Basic (or any other) Law for this.
HEART OF HONG KONG: It does not matter who bears responsibility for this chaos affecting so many toddlers but it is indeed undoubtedly cruel that they are forced to undergo what may be termed torture at their tender age! Hong Kong and the Mainland authorities are not beyond means to find an acceptable solution to this!
Hong Kong does not float on a cloud, it relies entirely upon Mainland China for its prosperity. Please remind yourselves of that fact. If there are any Mainlanders who want a Hong Kong education, HK has enough, more than enough prosperity to seed these fertile minds with great HK values. The people arguing against this are brainless.
HEART OF HONG KONG: One is not here concerned so much about the quality of education and values instilled in kids attending Hong Kong schools but the hardship undergone by the little ones!
China is great. Achieve the China Dream. Stay in China.
HK is part of PRC now just in case u didnt notice.. dont like it then too bad
OOh I get it now, China dream = HK. How highly you think of us. Remember to pay your taxes like the rest of us!
The parents should be responsible for their irresponsible arrangement to their children. No one invite or request these children to study and live in two sides of the border.
If someone request the government to implement administrative policy to ease the pressure suffered by these children, please do not ignore those HK pupils whom were allotted to study in outlying islands.
HEART OF HONG KONG: What pricks one here is not why some parents prefer their children to be educated in certain style of education, merits or demerits of it side, but what the innocent kids have to undergo to receive that education! There ought to be better understanding of the situation and a lot better arrangements for the kids to attend schools they are enrolled in with least inconvenience!
Those kids should not be accepted into HK schools, that's the whole point. Innocent kids would not be suffering if this was implemented.
very important issue to bring up SCMP really appreciate your efforts
people are living more worse than animals in SAR and begging for their very basic living rights that you cant see, may be the reporter has his/her children to cross every day so he/she make this story.
SCMP you can put your recommendations to govt to remove this boundary so every one can move freely then you will see what will happen,
SAR don't have sincere leaders/don't have planning for any thing, but corruption and abuse of power on high rise every where in departments.
if these corruptions are beyond ICAC then may their master need to interrupt to look after this side also
HEART OF HONG KONG: Aren't we mixing up issues here when the story revolves around the first-day-school chaos that some innocent kids have been forced to undergo! And what deserves focus of attention of authorities is how to minimize the inconvenience that the children undergo to receive basic education of a given style!
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?
Only 1 in 10 of cross-border students in Hong Kong were born locally to mainland parents. the rest at least have one HK parent. That means too many HK residents are exploiting the resources (lower rent, housing price, transportation, food stuff costs etc.) in Shenzhen. Yet most HKers like to believe that they were the ones who have been taken advantage of.
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!
Excellent point. Good nitpicking. That said, your masters in Beijing agreed to a significant level of autonomy to HK people. That will go for several more years. Better get used to it.
Completely ridiculous, these are children! Low ranking Party officials have never queued at any border crossing, they are waved through in their Mercedes 500 so they can shop in Landmark! Why do children need to cross a border anyway? If they want to use HK schools and HK infrastructure then they should be living in HK; has anyone costed the impact on our environment with hundreds of additional buses idling most of the day to carry 20 kids to a school ! More evidence of HK's gradual demise .... why not just remove the border all together and let HK be absorbed by Shenzen (and eventually Zuhai, once the bridge is built) ... the future for HK is bleak indeed ....
it's not that they dont want to live in HK!!! the HK gov wont allow the parents to hv residency here.. so the kids cant live in the city by themselves, can they?
Why should the HK government allow the parents to reside here? The children are here born illegally since the Standing Committee has ruled that children born to Mainland parents do not enjoy the right to abode in HK. The Mainland government has also repeatedly stated that children born to Mainland parents in HK violate the one child rule on the Mainland. But our courts and government in all their wisdom (or better, to show the Mainland government who is the boss in HK) have allowed this situation to happen. So why should the HK government support this illegal practice with our tax dollars? As so many people here have already stated: "Hong Kong belongs to China now". Although I'm sure they had something else in mind.
@lyono: The kids can't live here themselves, but they can easily just attend a school in Shenzhen. Even the Mainland schools allocate places based on residence on the area of the school.
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...........
it's just amazing how ignorant and inhuman ur comments are!!! just get this into ur freaking skull.. HK belongs to PRC now.. like it or not one country two system is a privilege not ur birth right.. Mao or Deng would have sent in the PLA to take over..!!!!
Invade us please, share with us your China Dream
I, for one, welcome our new PLA masters
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!
If we put our dogs under the same stress these poor children are put under by their parents, we probably would be reported to the SPCA for animal cruelty
So sick of seeing those issue created by the previous government.
Now all these sh*tty things that happened few years ago are coming into our face.
And see how the 1 country 2 systems work. The mainland can maybe help to build or allow school for those children.
There is already enough problems to solve in HK after the mainland storm passed.
Dare we mention Mui Wo? Students get up at a similar time everyday and are to be seen boarding the 6:20 fast ferry to Central and then on to schools in HK or Kowloon. It's good that the EDB arranged extra classrooms in abandoned schools for children of non-residents, but what about resident students? Isn't it then possible to open up a couple of classrooms in the abandoned Mui Wo Secondary School?
BTW many students unable to find places in primary school in Mui Wo have for years been commuting by ferry to WL in DB. The ferry will cease operations in November and these students will then face an even longer journey via Tung Chung. Any help or solution from the EDB?
Move out from Mui Wo and into the city
Simply ridiculous situation. The pressure on those poor children without any Cantonese and up to a 4.5 hour commute is child abuse and the policy needs a comprehensive review.
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.
I absolutely agree with the points you stated. I guess like all mainlanders the quality of services or products in HK far surpass the mainland counterparts (most notably hospital services, education, authentic products).
This influx of mainland children into our schools is really due to the average conscience of your typical mainlander. What complicates the issue more is that there are a portion of kids from HK daddies/mainland mummies residing across the border.
Our education system really needs an overhaul to relieve stress off parents/staff, add more places, and to limit mainland students to give all HK kids a fair go, since they are our schools!
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.
i think the point no.2 is just plain silly argument.. it's not that the parents of these kids dont want to pay taxes here but they are not allowed to in the first plc!!! if these parents are allowed to reside and live in HK would they not be paying taxes in some ways? the HKers would just assume that these parents are beggars when they can afford hundreds of thousands of $ to give birth here.
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.
so ur playing lawyer now? these kids were given ROA so what do u mean by illegally? u guys keep bringing up tax dollars issues.. what is avg HK Joe paying in tax $ every yr anyway? these parents paid hundreds of thousand tax $ in advance to hv the privilege for these kids!!!! get ur head off ur **** fren!!!
The parents didn't pay the money to our government, but to the various hospitals and agencies arranging the births.
And by illegally I mean the fact that the Mainland government (who according to most posts here is the master over HK) has already ruled that children born in HK to Mainland parents should not get ROA. But our government and courts in all their wisdom have just disregarded that fact. The Mainland government has also repeatedly stated that having a child in HK is a breach of Mainland one-child policy laws.
the fact they were given the right of abodes here means they are here legally isnt it? dont get your emotions run thru ur head.. what the fish do u mean by illegally born here? like it or not they will come back here in 10 20 yrs time.. by that time these kids would bhave like their forefathers, think like commies on the mainland etc.. i mean these kids are like love childs.. yeah u didnt want them on this earth but once they r here we have to treat them like any other human being.. treating them like it's not ur prob wont make the them go away!!
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.
Well the issue is that now that their lovely parents offer that HKID gift, they can't attend local mainland school.
Good job to those so thoughtful parents.
They can still attend Mainland schools if they would be willing to pay a nominal fee. But you get more face by telling your friends your kids are going to school in HK, even if they have to travel 5 hours to get there.
I have friends from Israel who send their children to a local school in Shenzhen, it was no problem for them to get a place and they aren't even Chinese.
wow, how long does it take to get from israel to shenzhen?? they must get up very early!
well the whole point of having a HK ROA is that they want to live in HK isnt it? u just dont make much sense :)
Well, then they should live in HK, and the problem of long travel to and from school is solved. Simple isn't it?
My thoughts exactly...deary me.


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