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China military

‘Better future for Hong Kong if youth join PLA boot camp’ actor-director Stephen Chow says

He tells state-run media he has high hopes for teenagers willing to give up playtime for tough trials

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 July, 2017, 1:06pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 July, 2017, 10:50pm

A veteran Hong Kong comedian and filmmaker has urged more teenagers to join the People’s Liberation Army’s annual summer boot camp as it would toughen them up and benefit the city’s future.

Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s support for the programme came as another batch of campers graduated from the 15-day programme at the PLA San Wai Barracks in Fanling on Sunday. The camp is now in its 13th year.

In front of their parents and an audience which included Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and former leader Tung Chee-hwa, the 400 graduates performed drills, shadowboxed and sang revolutionary hymns in the intense sun and temperatures of up to 35 degrees ­Celsius.

Chow, best known for starring in slapstick comedies throughout the 1990s, visited the camp days before, spending hours chatting with participants, state-run newspaper China Daily reported.

“They overcame challenges and hardships through arduous training in this garrison’s summer camp. To my surprise, they’ve spent time experiencing this special training, instead of playing around. For me it is remarkable that they do this,” Chow, an adviser to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Beijing’s top political advisory body, said. “If more young people were to take part in this summer camp, Hong Kong would have a better future.”

Organised by the Hong Kong government with the local PLA garrison since 2005, the camp claims to offer a taste of “military-style” training in physical fitness, navigation, drills and “basic combat readiness”, aimed to “enhance national consciousness”.

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Some parents and critics have raised concerns over “brainwashing” the young with propaganda.

Participant Yau Wing-yan, 16, said she did not have an opinion on this but believed the two weeks of training improved her self-discipline and mainland knowledge.

“The camp met my expectations,” the Form Four pupil said.

Another participant Wei Youhai, 15, said: “My lazy habits might have changed. At home my routine is usually: eat, sleep, play on my phone. Here, the time was very fulfilling, but very tight.”

Another 15-year-old, Hon Kam-hak, said the experience was tougher than she expected with the most memorable being a 13km march. “I learned about the value of unity, perseverance and not to drag everyone down just because you’re tired,” she said.

In a speech, Carrie Lam said: “These skills and qualities cannot be learned in a classroom.”

Additional reporting by Ernest Kao