The Olympic delegation of 29 athletes from Team China arrive in Hong Kong and take a group photo during the welcoming ceremony on December 3, 2021. Photo: VCG
When an Olympic delegation of 29 athletes from Team China arrived in Hong Kong on Friday for a three-day visit to the Chinese city, the Tokyo 2020 medalists’ victory lap, which is also part of the tradition for the Chinese Olympians to visit the city since returning to the motherland in 1997 is expected to generate strong repercussions, echoing the rise of patriotism in recent months following a number of activities in Hong Kong such as youth local chatting with taikonauts, a lunar soil exhibit and the screening of The Battle of Changjin Lake. Carrie Lam, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Friday that the majority of Hong Kong people are patriotic and now is a favorable environment for Hong Kong to trigger such sentiment. .
As many in Hong Kong warmly welcomed the visit of Chinese athletes – tickets to see their activities sold out within hours last week – public enthusiasm has become more palpable, as the COVID-19 outbreak had interrupted frequent trade between the mainland and Hong Kong. Kong for too long, and more importantly, the city’s overall political and social environment has gradually but steadily changed in which the message of the central government can be clearly conveyed to the Hong Kong public without being hampered by opposition forces. external and radical hostiles.
Social unrest in Hong Kong in 2019 revealed serious shortcomings in local governance and the lack of education of Hong Kong youth on national identity awareness. The latest activities, which also attracted many young people to the city, were seen as a major way to raise awareness of the country’s recognition, while officials and policy advisers stressed the importance of further advancing the national education and civic values.
A welcoming ceremony was held at the port of Shenzhen Bay on Friday where Home Secretary Caspar Tsui and Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, chairman of the Sports Federation and the Olympic Committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, met the athletes including 28 Olympic gold medalists and sprinter Su Bingtian, in addition to three coaches for swimming, weightlifting and rowing.
The delegation is due to present a series of performances on Saturday, including badminton, fencing, gymnastics and table tennis, and some athletes such as table tennis player Ma Long and fencer Sun Yiwen will visit the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Sunday morning.
China placed second in medals behind the United States with 38 gold, 32 silver and 18 bronze in Tokyo 2020. And the Hong Kong SAR team won six medals, making it “the greatest game of all time” as some media have put it, and local athletes like the “god of fencing” Edgar Cheung Ka-long also made history by winning the city’s first gold medal in 25 years.
Public enthusiasm for the Chinese Olympians was also unprecedented, as the 5,300 tickets to see the Olympic stars sold out in three hours on November 26, and many locals regretted not getting a ticket, although ‘they understood the concern of epidemic prevention and control.
“It is a tradition for the National Olympic Delegation to travel to Hong Kong after the Games, which has always been well received by the Hong Kong public… The majority of Hong Kong people are patriots, but such patriotism has been affected because we have not properly implemented patriotic education. since the city’s return to the homeland, ”Lam told the Global Times on Friday.
With the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law and electoral reform, the “one country, two systems” practice is now back on the right track in Hong Kong. Patriotic behavior will not be affected by instigation of opposition groups or illegal activities, which will help people to express more respect for the country, Lam said.
In recent months, taikonauts aboard the central module of China’s Tianhe space station gave a special virtual tour to nearly 300 young people in Hong Kong via an Earth-to-space videoconference in early September, after a star team led by the best space experts visited local and lunar universities. soil brought back by the Chang’e-5 lunar probe was exposed in the city in the summer. All these activities were highlighted by the local media and praised by the students. For some of them, it was also the first time to learn about the progress made by the country in terms of scientific exploration.
Mainland Chinese Korean War-Themed Blockbuster The Battle of Changjin Lake has also attracted huge popularity among local communities, especially the youth of Hong Kong. For example, tickets were immediately sold out on the first weekend since it was screened in the city on November 11.
Hung Kam-in, a former Kwun Tong District Council member and think tank leader in Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Friday that some residents in his community who had not won tickets said that They wanted these athletes to be able to show up in more public places so that they could approach them and learn more about China’s sportsmanship.
He said that more such activities should be organized and carried out in Hong Kong, especially in elementary and middle schools, as face-to-face communication is a better way for the younger generation in Hong Kong to deepen their knowledge. his understanding of the country and improve his awareness of national identity.
Hong Kongers’ sense of alienation from the county increased during the Occupy Central movement of 2014, which sparked a strong wave of anti-Chinese sentiments among some young people, but the National Security Law for Hong Kong succeeded in “Fill the void” of “feeling far away” from the country, said Hung.
Some athletes also shared their feelings about Friday’s visit. Among them, Su, the Asian 100-meter sprint record holder, told a press conference after arriving in Hong Kong that he grew up watching Hong Kong TV broadcasts and wished that the spirit of hard work and perseverance of the athletes inspires the youth of Hong Kong to be responsible. and motivated.
Chinese Olympians visiting the city after the Olympics in the past reflect the central government’s concern for Hong Kong, Lam said at a press conference on Friday. Due to the outbreak, athletes were unable to visit more locations this time around, she said, noting that they may visit Hong Kong more frequently in the future after cross-border exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong.
Photo taken on July 1, 2020 shows Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong, China. Photo: Xinhua
Since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, the visits of Olympic athletes to Hong Kong have been a task of great importance and solidarity, and have been very well received by Hong Kong people. The visits reflect the central government’s unwavering support for Hong Kong’s economic and social development, said So Ching-tung, chairman of the Federation of Associations of Jinjiang Hong Kong Limited, which the Olympians are due to visit on Sunday.
Compared to the anti-government movement that lasted for months and turned into black riots in 2019, Hong Kong society today is stable and peaceful. While this is not the first time that Olympians have visited the city, it is unprecedented that the city has adopted a new environment conducive to the promotion of national identity and patriotic education.
“These taikonauts and athletes are national heroes, and their visits have nothing to do with politics, which could more easily arouse cordial feelings between local residents of Hong Kong and those on the mainland,” Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the China Association for Hong Kong and Macao Studies, the Global Times told the Global Times on Friday.
When national team athletes have already visited the city, some anti-government media have attempted to play down their visits, a way to interfere or misinterpret the message conveyed by the central government to residents, Lau noted. While the main radical opposition forces have remained quiet in this new environment, it is important to seize the opportunity to highlight these activities to strengthen the national awareness of the Hong Kong public, he said.
Along with various activities in Hong Kong like space exploration and sports communication, schools in Hong Kong are also required to instill civic values to strengthen the national identity of students, an extremely important job in Lam’s eyes. But she said local authorities had done it wrong in the past.
“Without a proper patriotic education, some young people in Hong Kong were opposed to the central government and had anti-continent sentiment,” Lam told the Global Times. Lam also stressed that she was ready to take more time to communicate with the education sector in the future, as it is extremely important for young people to learn “one country, two systems”, the Constitution and the law on national security.
More efforts are needed to tackle media reform, although the Hong Kong media have shown positive changes after the shutdown of Apple Daily, Hung said, noting that the professional ethics and credibility of journalists as well as rules to regulate journalists need to be further tightened. The first thing is to reform the Hong Kong Journalists Association which is not a professional journalism organization.