Policy Address 19/20: Internships and exchanges on the mainland for Hong Kong's disenchanted youth

For 22-year-old Eleanor Pang, a recent graduate from Chinese University of Hong Kong, her internship in mainland China last year was meaningful.After working in Beijing for 1.5 months at the State Development and Investment Corporation - the largest state-owned investment holding company in China, she now understands mainland business and social cultures and Chinese history. 

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has announced a series of internship and exchange programme for young people to the mainland in her third policy address today.

This year's policy address offer Hong Kong students and university graduates like Ms. Pang, more opportunities to work and visit the mainland as part of a slew of measures aimed at connecting with young people.

The government plans to spend $1 billion on the measures.

"The current-term government will strive to do its best in youth development work by addressing young people's concerns about education, career pursuit and home ownership, and encouraging their participation in politics as well as public policy discussion and debate," said chief executive, Carrie Lam in her policy address supplement.

Exchange and internship programmes, managed by the Youth Development Council are expected to benefit about 19,300 and 3,800 local youths respectively this year.

Students can join internships at the Palace Museum in Beijing, Wolong National Nature Reserves in Yunnan, and the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The government will also continue to provide subsidies for post-secondary students who wish to go on exchange in the "Belt and Road" region.

Apple Poon, a third year student at the University of Hong Kong, at a virtual reality experience workshop during her internship at a state run online firm in Beijing.

Apple Poon, 20, a third year student at the University of Hong Kong, joined an exchange programme organised by Hong Kong United Youth Association last year. She spent 1.5 months living in Beijing working at a state run online firm.

"To be honest, the time of the internship is so limited that we can only do some basic work. It’s hard for us to learn about working culture in the mainland. But my boss and colleagues were friendly to me," she said.

Ms Poon said the policies on youth put forward by the chief executive today are limited, but provide some opportunities for local students to learn about mainland culture.

 "The term of internship is too short to gain enough experience for future planning," she added.

She also thinks that it will not encourage local graduates to work in the mainland afterwards.

"There is still a cultural difference between Hong Kong and mainland China. It is difficult for fresh graduates from Hong Kong to find jobs and accommodation there," she said.

Unlike Ms. Poon and Ms. Pang, some Hong Kong youths at the forefront of the current social movement, have panned Carrie Lam's China focused youth measures.

Kelly Kwong, a final year student at the Hong Kong Baptist University, said she will not consider working in the mainland. 

"Many Hong Kong people actually do not understand mainland people's ways of thinking because there are cultural differences, I don't think they can communicate well and more conflict may result," she said. 

Ms. Kwong added the government should focus on youth welfare in Hong Kong, such as providing funding for the development of extracurricular activities.

Dr. Petula Ho Sik-ying, a professor at the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong, believed that there will always be people who are interested in joining programmes in the mainland since they can help students reach out to other people and understand different issues.

"Young people who think they have a future in the mainland will still be interested in these schemes, but they will not find it a very attractive option in the existing tense social situation," she said. 

She remained sceptical of the government's intention to help young people.

"[Mrs. Lam] knows our youths want to go abroad instead of going back to the mainland. But she has her own agenda to tell her boss, the Chinese government, and needs to develop patriotism and cultivate young people's sense of belonging to China," she said. 

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) is an English news publication produced by international journalism students at Hong Kong Baptist University. It started as a printed magazine in 1969. Today, TYR is produced across different platforms.

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