Legislative Council of Hong Kong

‘No political screening’ for Hong Kong government mentoring programme

Some 30 young people will get the chance to ‘be a government official for a day’ in July

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 7:34am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 8:57am

Hong Kong’s young people have been assured they will not be politically screened if they apply to a new government programme that will see about 30 students get a first-hand look at how top ­government officials carry out their daily duties.

Under the “Be a Government Official for a Day” programme, the chosen few will personally shadow a bureau chief or minister for a day between July 16 and 27. They may also indicate the official they would like to shadow, though there is no guarantee that their requests will be met.

Officials hope to attract Form Four and Form Five students who are “self-motivated”, “interested in public service” and have “analytical and communication skills”. Applicants also need to have their schools’ recommendation and pass interviews, to be held in May or June. 

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Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said on Monday that the programme aimed to give students a better understanding of top officials’ work and also allow officials to exchange views with young people directly.

In addition to Cheung, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and the 13 bureau chiefs are taking part.

Applications opened on Monday and run until May 11.

“It is the first year. We plan to accept about 30 students. Depending on the response, we may accept more students next time,” Cheung’s spokesman said on Monday. The latest official figures showed there were more than 116,500 students studying in Form Four and Form Five in the city.

The spokesman added: “There will not be any political screening of the applicants. The programme’s aim is very clear. We hope participating students to have a chance to interact with officials and think about life planning.”

There will also be orientation sessions for the successful applicants before the job shadowing, and they will also be asked to share their experiences at a “debriefing” session afterwards.

Ho Hon-kuen, of the concern group Education Convergence, also principal of Elegantia College in Sheung Shui, complained about the small number of places offered. “I don’t see much meaning in a programme in which only 30 of the more than 110,000 eligible students can take part,” Ho said. “I don’t know how they are going to pick the applicants, but unavoidably some may suspect there is political screening.”

Ho said the government should pick one student from each secondary school for the programme, allowing the participation of about 500 students. “There are so many minsters, and the school summer holiday is long. Students could also shadow a minister in a group. I don’t see why the government must accept only a few students.”

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Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools chairman Lee Suet-ying, principal of Ho Yu College and Primary School in Tung Chung, also hoped the government could entertain more students.

She said she would not exercise “political vetting”. Lee said her school would probably recommend those who showed strong interest in current affairs, “not necessarily those with good academic performance”.

“I don’t think schools will screen out those so-called pro-independence students,” Lee said. “After all, those students may not be interested in the programme.”

A student activist from the pro-independence group Studentlocalism, Tony Chung, who is in Form Five, said: “I doubt … that there will not be political vetting. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if the bureau chief is confronted with a banner-waving job shadower, who will follow him for one day.”