Charity offers Hong Kong youth exchange programmes in Greater Bay Area, but students have mixed views

  • China government has pushed the area, consisting of nine cities in the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, as a major economic hub
  • One ethnic minority student is happy for the cultural opportunity, while another says the city should focus on making its young people global citizens
Kelly Fung |

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The Greater Bay Area Homeland Youth Community Foundation will organise an in-depth experiential tour to the mainland cities in the GBA for the For Our Future Scholarship awardees this summer. Photo: Handout

A charitable organisation has announced it will allocate more than HK$12 million this year to organise diversified exchange and training programmes for the city’s youth to explore study and career opportunities in the Greater Bay Area. But some Hong Kong students have mixed views on exchange programmes that solely focus on the region.

The “Greater Bay Area” refers to the Chinese government’s strategy to form an integrated economic circle encompassing Hong Kong, Macau and nine other cities of Guangdong Province.

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“Hong Kong and the mainland have resumed normal travel. The foundation actively supports and encourages young Hong Kong people to gain first-hand experience in the various cities of the GBA,” said Daryl Ng Win-kong, chairman of the Greater Bay Area Homeland Youth Community Foundation.

“We are promoting extensive … exchanges and in-depth integration so they can discover the latest developments and cultural life in the GBA. This will help them understand the opportunities in the GBA and become more integrated into the overall development of the nation,” said Ng, the deputy chairman of Sino Land.

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Established in 2019, the foundation offers education and training opportunities to the city’s youth to help young people from Hong Kong better understand the bay area’s academic and business environment.

Aiming to benefit more than 10,000 people aged 11 to 45 from Hong Kong, the foundation has rolled out several youth exchange programmes.

These include the 2023 Guangdong Exchange Programme, which will fund exchange activities for about 4,000 students to cities in the bay area; the Greater Bay Area Mainland University Visiting Programme, which helps around 500 students visit mainland universities; and the Wish Builder Programme 2023-24, which aims to support over 400 youngsters in their studies, internships, careers and entrepreneurship opportunities in the area.

Participants of the Dream Brewer- Pacific Coffee x [email protected] Entrepreneurship Training Programme, sponsored by the Foundation’s Wish Builder Programme. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong student Clarisse Poon, 13, does not find these exchange programmes appealing as she has set her sights on gaining exposure on an international level.

“In an era where globalisation is increasingly crucial, Hong Kong should be looking outwards rather than inward,” said the Form Two student from St Paul’s Co-educational College, referring to the need for young people to explore the world rather than just the Greater Bay Area.

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She believes the funds could be better spent setting up exchange programmes with world-class universities and business schools globally so that the younger generation can “develop into global citizens rather than GBA citizens”.

“If the government is genuinely trying to support and nurture Hong Kong youth, why not collaborate with companies from major international cities so that young people can gain exposure at an international level?”

But Zehba Irfan, 16, is drawn to these programmes because, as an ethnic minority student, she has never had the opportunity to visit the mainland.

The mainland city of Shenzhen, as seen from Lok Ma Chau. Photo: Sam Tsang

“We do not get many opportunities to go there since we do not have any connections to the area. I can only learn about mainland China through classes or watching C-Pop stars, so I’m very excited about potentially visiting,” said the Form Five student from Rosaryhill School (Secondary Section).

The student said she would consider studying in the mainland as she longs for an inclusive learning environment where people from different cultures and ethnicities come together.

“From what I’ve seen on apps like Douyin and Xiaohongshu, the GBA is a melting pot, more than Hong Kong, [where] Pakistani students only hang out with other Pakistanis and Filipinos only hang out with other Filipinos. But on mainland Chinese social media, I see more cultural exchanges, and I really want to be a part of that,” she said.

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