Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Want to know what it’s like to run Hong Kong? Now the city’s students are going to get the chance

Summer holidays programme will see select few shadow ministers as they go about daily business of running the city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 8:34pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2018, 11:15pm

Hong Kong students who dream of running the city one day can get a taste what it is like to be in power this summer.

A new government programme will allow a select few a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to shadow ministers as they go about the daily task of keeping the island functioning.

Applications for the programme, called ‘Be a Government Official for a Day’, open on Monday, with officials hoping to attract secondary four and five students who are, “self-motivated, interested in public affairs, with good analytical and communication skills, and getting recommended by schools”.

The criteria the students will have to meet was laid out by Chief Secretary Matthew Kin-chung in a piece posted on his official blog on Sunday, where he also revealed that he, plus 13 bureau chiefs, as well as Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah would be taking part.

“We shall share with the students about our experience in learning and our careers, as well as personal growth,” wrote Cheung in his blog piece, promising it would be “a once-in-a-lifetime memorable experience” for the students.

Why are Hong Kong’s young people abandoning student unions?

Cheung added: “We hope to be able to encourage students to work hard and move upwards in the society, and get prepared for what they would like to achieve in the future.

“We may also get a better understanding of the students’ thinking about their goals and future development through the interaction and communication.”

Cheung said the move was in line with the “new style of governance” that Lam had promised in her election platforms. Lam pledged to “connect with young people” and would give more opportunities for them to ‘participate in public affairs”.

Applications for the scheme close on May 11, and further details are expected to be released on Monday.

Vice-chairman of Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, Wu Siu-wai, welcomed the move, and said it could help students understand the difficulties faced by government officials in their daily work. “So, they may not only complain about what the government cannot do, but also appreciate what the government can do,” said Wu.

An executive committee member of the Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, James Lam Yat-fung, also president of Lions College, welcomed the programme, describing it as a “valuable” and “educational” opportunity for students.

“Students can learn the working attitude and how to get along with others from the ministers,” he said.

Not everyone is convinced, however, with fifth-former Tony Chung, convenor of the pro-Hong Kong independence students’ group Sutdentlocalism, laughing off the scheme as a “public relations gimmick”.

He added: “What can you expect to learn by following the top officials for one day? For some, it is a chance to tour the fantasyland. I will not apply. I don’t think I can get it anyway given the background of the group I serve.”

Can a young lawmaker’s success spur renewal in Hong Kong’s pro-establishment ranks?

Another, fourth-former Joshua Wong said he would like to job shadow Cheung if he was selected for the programme. “It should be an interesting opportunity to see for myself the behind-the-scenes work of our ministers,” he said.

Jasmine Yu Ling-si, a form five student at Good Hope School, said she was planning to apply and if selected, hoped she would be able to shadow Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee.

“For ordinary citizens, we don’t have chance to see how the top officials at work,” Yu said. “I hope to see how she can manage the health and hygiene of the entire city. That must be very challenging work.”

Pan-democratic lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun doubted if the Lam government was sincere in “connecting” young people.

“The successful applicants perhaps can follow Matthew Cheung for a day, going with him to ceremonies where he will do ribbon-cutting,” Shiu said. “That is not what you expect from a government which says it wants to involve more young people in public affairs.”