Internships, not ‘sightseeing tours’, will help young Hongkongers learn about mainland China, scholar says
Academic Anthony Fung speaks at seminar ahead of group visit across the border to meet state leaders
Internships or work experience across the border would help young Hongkongers appreciate China better than short “sightseeing trips”, an academic said on the eve of a mainland visit by a group of up-and-coming business and community leaders.
“Short-term exchange programmes usually give an impression that they are just cheap sightseeing tours,” Professor Anthony Fung Ying-him said at a public seminar at Chinese University on Thursday, as he highlighted findings from a survey done three years ago on youngsters’ attitudes towards mainland China. “Itineraries are usually very tight, and it is difficult for participants to really understand daily life on the mainland.”
He pointed out that respondents who had taken part in short exchanges across the border were more pessimistic about the political situation there compared with those who had not been on such trips.
But those who had joined internship programmes and worked on the mainland gave an average score of 1.63 out of 3 for the general living quality there, compared to a score of 1.44 for those who had not joined such programmes.
The seminar was held as 150 young business and community leaders prepared to tour Shenzhen, Wuhan and Beijing to understand how the country’s IT sector is developing.
They are expected to meet state leaders in the Chinese capital, possibly including vice-premier Han Zheng, who is in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs as well as regional development in the Greater Bay Area.
Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, a leader of the delegation and a Hong Kong delegate to China’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said the trip details were being finalised.
The grandson of tycoon and Beijing loyalist Henry Fok Ying-tung, told reporters after the seminar, which he also spoke at: “It would be a very valuable chance if [we] could in person hear the state leaders’ views and expectations of Hong Kong’s young people.”
He said the central government attached much importance to the development of the city’s youth and how they integrated into the country’s development.
Fok is chairman of the Committee of Youth Activities in Hong Kong, which is co-organising the mainland trip next week. The committee is formed by nine pro-Beijing groups in Hong Kong, including the Y.Elites Association and the Hong Kong United Youth Association, of which the key members are the so-called fu er dai, or “second-generation rich” – the scions of wealthy families.
Ben Kong Ho-ming, a policy officer at the think tank Savantas Policy Institute, said at the seminar that Hongkongers’ reluctance to work across the border was related to pay. The general starting salary of a university graduate in Hong Kong is about HK$14,000 (US$1,785), while that on the mainland is only 4,300 yuan (US$662).
Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying, of the cultural group ARTicipants, also flagged “heavy political censorship” as something deterring young artists from moving to the mainland.
The localist Wan Chai district councillor said: “There seems to have been too much discussion in recent years about encouraging our young people to find opportunities across the border. But should we not encourage our young talent to stay in Hong Kong to contribute to our society?”