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Hong Kong youth get a taste of life on the mainland

By Wang Ru | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-27 08:30
Young people from Hong Kong visit the Tianjin Planning Exhibition Hall on Aug 19, as part of the We Are Family exchange activities organized by the New Home Association.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Continuous rain fails to dampen the enthusiasm of a group of 200 people from Hong Kong who are visiting Tianjin, a city neighboring Beijing.

This tour is part of the We Are Family exchange activities organized by the New Home Association, a Hong Kong charity that brings approximately 2,000 Hong Kong people, especially youngsters, to visit cities on the mainland every year.

"I visited Tianjin for the first time in 1991 on business. But this time I have seen great changes here," says Xie Yiling, who is from Kwai Tsing district in Hong Kong.

"There were no high-speed trains and very few highways in Tianjin during my last visit. But this time, I am really impressed by the orderly and well-developed transportation systems."

She also says that similar changes have taken place in Beijing, compared with what she saw 20 years ago.

"I was in Beijing in 1998. But this time when we got off the plane, I found everything was different. The roads, transportation and the city are all different."

The 45-year-old woman was born and grew up in Xiangtan in Hunan province.

Later, she went to Guangdong province to work. She met her future husband in 1997, and then moved to Hong Kong with him.

Now, she is a Hong Kong resident who returns to her hometown three or four times a year to visit relatives.

Over the past several years, she has worked as a volunteer with the association, and thus got priority to take part in this activity with nine other volunteers from the same district.

For Zhong Kiushum, a 14-year-old middle school student, this tour is a chance to see a city on the mainland.

Both her parents are from the mainland, and moved to Hong Kong.

She has also visited her mother's hometown in Sichuan province.

Speaking about the trip, Zhong says: "I wanted to see Tianjin, and I am amazed to find European-style architecture and skyscrapers here.

"Steamed buns in Tianjin are very tasty," she adds.

She says she looks forward to visit the residence of the Shi family, a legacy of one of the eight grand families of Tianjin in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

"I am very curious and hope to figure out how they lived in such a big house," says Zhong.

During her school's summer vacation, Zhong and her mother, a volunteer with the New Home Association, help organize charitable activities.

Among the other places on the visitors' itinerary are the National SuperComputer Center, the Ancient Cultural Street, Wudadao district and Nankai University.

The exchange activities have been held continuously for the past four years. And, so far, over 9,000 people from Hong Kong have visited Beijing, Shanghai, Fujian and Zhejiang.

The activities are supported by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR.

Meanwhile, besides the Tianjin trip, about 800 youth from Hong Kong traveled to Shaanxi province a few days earlier.

Speaking about the program's objectives, Li Sze-lim, the chairman of the supervisory board of the association, says: "The aim of We Are Family is to enable people from Hong Kong to learn about the history, culture and development of mainland cities."

According to Li, young people from Hong Kong have poor knowledge about Chinese history and culture. So, activities of this kind offer them a chance to overcome this shortcoming.

"That is why we chose Shaanxi, a place with cultural and historical significance."

As for Tianjin, its remarkable economic achievements are a reminder of what the reform and opening-up over the past four decades has brought about.

Also, a tour of Tianjin can show Hong Kong youth the opportunities available for personal development on the mainland, he says.

We Are Family activities are open to the public in Hong Kong on a first-come, first-served basis, but the Tianjin tour is special since volunteers are given priority.

Hong Kong schools are also part of the program.

Speaking about how the educational institutions are involved, Chan Yinwa from the City University of Hong Kong, says: "We got to know about the activity from our teachers.

"Then, we became familiar with the association. They contact us when they have activities we may want to take part in."

Participants are required to bear a part of the costs and the association pays for the rest.

In Shaanxi, the participants plant a tree near the Tomb of Huangdi (the "yellow emperor"), a legendary figure who is considered to be the ancestor of all Han Chinese in Chinese mythology. The water and soil they use are from both Hong Kong and Shaanxi to symbolize the bonds between Hong Kong and the mainland.

In Tianjin, Li hopes the visitors can see the city's progress.

A third group is to visit Guangdong province to check out the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area after the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge comes into operation.

Giving his take on the program, Hui Wing-mau, the chairman of the board of the New Home Association, says: "If we simply tell things to the youth, they may refuse to accept them. But with these experiences, their knowledge of China will grow."

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