Interview June 2017 | Youth Hong Kong
Knowing more about China F or Hong Kong youth's awareness and understanding of mainland China to be enhanced, they need first-hand experience, says Mr Lau Ming-wai, Chairman of the Commission on Youth.
Getting to know Hong Kong youth has been the focus of Mr Lau’s work with the Commission on Youth and he is a leading voice on matters concerning Hong Kong’s young people. His benchmark is for them to be happy, healthy and resilient. When asked about the challenge they face on the subject of national identity, his answer is clear. “I think that one’s cultural identity is an individual choice and it can only be meaningfully formed through personal experience and reflection.” A nation is more than a place. Its people are bound together by a shared past, ethnicity or language that create a sense of identity, but some youth say that they feel their sense of Hong Kong identity is being threatened. Mr Lau acknowledges that the unique history, identity and culture with which they grew up are quite different from those of mainland China. Therefore, he points out, “The fundamental premise of any sort of winning hearts and minds is that we have to acknowledge that these differences are real.” “Integration with China on many levels and in many spheres, including the economic, social and cultural, will take time,” he continues. However, he believes that, “The social and cultural integration issues we’re seeing, in my opinion, are man-made. No one is forcing us to speak Mandarin. No one is forcing us to read simplified Chinese. One can be proud of one’s Hong Kong identity and culture, and at the same time accept and embrace mainland Chinese identity and culture.”
Finding out what makes China tick can be achieved in many ways. Most often, Hong Kong youngsters do so by joining exchange tours or doing internships “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has had a long history of supporting youth exchange in mainland China,” Mr Lau points out.* “In 2016-2017 alone, the Commission on Youth funded more than 300 exchange and internship tours organized by third parties.” Given the wide range of such tours, naturally their quality varies. “While there are low quality ones that provide less chance for personal reflection, many are not like that. I have participated in some exchange tours that offer students a chance to experience local culture and meet local people. Spreading these best practices is a work in progress.” *More details coy.gov.hk/en/mainland_exchange/funding_scheme_17_18.html