YOUTH POLICY

Mystery surrounds new Hong Kong army cadet force inaugurated at PLA base

Top officials attend ceremony at PLA naval base but most media excluded

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 January, 2015, 2:42am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 January, 2015, 4:21pm

A mysterious uniformed group that aims to make Hong Kong's youngsters "aware of their responsibilities and obligations as Chinese citizens" was inaugurated yesterday, with the city's first lady said to be the group's "commander-in-chief".

But the newly formed Hong Kong Army Cadets Association has already come under criticism for its secretive handling of the inauguration ceremony. Only a few media outlets - including pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po and state broadcaster China Central Television - were allowed to cover the event.

Some also fear the group, registered as a non-profit company last Thursday and claiming to be Hong Kong's first uniformed group to train members in "Chinese-style military foot drills", will be used to "indoctrinate" young people.

The ceremony was held yesterday afternoon in the restricted area of Ngong Shuen Chau naval base on Stonecutters Island. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's wife, Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee, was seen being chauffeured into the base in the group's green uniform.

Many top government officials attended the event, including Leung, central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming , Security Secretary Lai Tung-kwok, Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim and Youth Commission chairman Bunny Chan Chung-bun.

Leung, Zhang and People's Liberation Army Hong Kong garrison head Major General Tan Benhong are the group's "honorary patrons", while Chan is the group's chairman.

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa is said to be the group's honorary president while his wife, Betty Tung Chiu Hung-ping, is said to be an honorary adviser.

About 200 members of the association reportedly marched during the event.

But reporters from most news outlets could not get into the venue because they were not invited. Instead, they had to interview a reporter from Wen Wei Po. The reporter confirmed Regina Tong's position in the group and displayed the group's uniform.

Sham Yee-lan, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), said the organiser had no reason to bar media from the event.

"With so many public figures attending and such high public interest, you can't just use invitation as an excuse," she said. "It will only make people wonder if the association has secrets."

The group, which does not have a website or a phone number, could not be reached for comment.

The group's articles of association state that one of its objects is to "encourage the youth in Hong Kong to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations as Chinese citizens". Anyone aged over six can apply to join.

Civic Party lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said he feared the association would be used to "indoctrinate" young people in patriotism.

He suspected that Beijing initiated the formation of the group because of the involvement of the PLA and the liaison office.