Straight from the heart: Hong Kong prisoners to perform with Tin Shui Wai orchestra on July 1

A dozen inmates will join 100 musicians from New Territories town in stealing the limelight at two concerts on handover anniversary day

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 June, 2017, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 June, 2017, 9:58pm

Some of the city’s marginalised youth will steal the limelight on July 1 – the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover – to highlight the importance of forgiveness, acceptance and respect.

Twelve young convicts from Cape Collinson Correctional Institution aged 14 to 21 will join forces with 100 orchestra members from the Tin Shui Wai-based Music for Our Young Foundation to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China.

“The act of returning is only meaningful if it comes from the heart,” Gordon Siu Kwing-chue, a retired government principal official and foundation founder told the Post.

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“As Hong Kong is celebrating its return to China, we shouldn’t forget those with the strongest need to return home. But does the family or society accept them?” he asked.

Siu quoted from official statistics that over 25 per cent of convicts reoffended after release.

“They are a part of Hong Kong and will remain a part of Hong Kong, so please, fathers and mothers, give your children a chance, otherwise they will always look upon themselves as failures. But they need not be,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner of Correctional Services Terence Lam Kwok-leung cited cases where families did not accept their delinquent child.

“Whether an inmate returns home or to the institution depends very much on where the heart is, that is whether his family will accept him. It’s our hope that parents of the inmates will be at the concert on July 1 to see their children perform,” he said.

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The 12 inmates rehearsed with more than 80 orchestra players in Stanley Prison earlier this month. With brass and percussion instruments and bagpipes and in full military tattoo uniform, they played works ranging from Chinese folk songs to Edward Elgar’s hymns ahead of two concerts they will perform with choirs from Guangdong and Macau in Stanley Prison and heritage venue PMQ in Central on July 1.

“Playing in an orchestra teaches me to be considerate and tolerant,” said one, a trumpet player who identified himself only as Mike.

“I will play my best for my family at the anniversary concert as a way to let them know that I will not disappoint them again,” the soft-spoken 17-year-old added.

Leung Tsan-ming, a superintendent in the prison’s rehabilitation unit, said the joint event would be different from the annual parade the inmates take part in as a marching band.

“They are all trained as boy scouts in our character development programme. But when they play with young people from the community on the same stage, it will take them to a higher level of integration which we hope they will manage in the future,” he said.

Form 3 student Cheng Chui-chi, a xylophone player with the orchestra for the past two years, said she did not feel nervous about performing with inmates.

“They are people, aren’t they? But I was a little surprised at the first rehearsal when they marched in full uniform and with discipline. There is nothing to be concerned about,” she said.

Her instructor, Lun Sik-fai, was impressed with the progress made by the inmates between rehearsals.

“They were a bit raw at the first rehearsal, but at the second a few weeks later, they really showed they were good at it. They are really smart,” he said.

Anson Kam, father of Peony, who is nine and an erhu player with the orchestra, appreciated the joint performance.

“They appeared very fine young men and I thought they were uniformed personnel when I saw them at the first rehearsal. I feel sorry about their present status but am happy that they will get to know us and work together. It’s a reunion of hearts that matters most, as Mr Siu often tells us,” he said.