19 January 2019
Beijing would not want APEC delegates to be caught in some of the world's worst traffic jams. Photo: Bloomberg
Beijing would not want APEC delegates to be caught in some of the world's worst traffic jams. Photo: Bloomberg

Beijing students gear up for major event

Twenty-five years ago, they shook the world with their historic democratic movement.

But if you’re wondering what the youngsters of Beijing are preoccupied with these days, the answer is that they are preparing for another big event that will grab the world’s attention. 

While their counterparts in Hong Kong are occupying the streets to push for democratic rights, Beijing students are looking forward to an unexpected term break, thanks to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month.

From Nov. 8 to 10, the Chinese capital will play host to some 1,500 leaders worldwide who will gather for the 2014 APEC Economic Leaders’ Week to discuss how to strengthen economic cooperation in the region.

Just to show how serious Beijing is taking the event, all Beijing residents will get a six-day holiday which they are encouraged to spend by travelling to other provinces.

Why the special arrangement? Beijing has some of the world’s worst traffic congestions, and the Chinese government would not want global leaders to be caught in any of those jams and be treated to a panoramic view of the city’s smog-filled skyline.

Yours truly spent an entire weekend in the metropolis, and what it has taught me is patience.

For the past three days, there wasn’t a day when I wasn’t caught in a traffic jam, and that includes a two-hour taxi ride to the Bird’s Nest to catch a football match in which Messi missed a penalty kick against rival Brazil, and my dash to the airport just this morning, almost missing a flight back to Hong Kong.

The government has thought of everything, including license plate restrictions and the “all two yuan” subway subsidy, to encourage residents to leave their cars in the garage, but still, there are just too many cars in the capital.

As for the students, some are planning to travel outside Beijing to take advantage of the low-season transport fares and cheaper hotel rates, but many are staying in town to join APEC-related activities.

According to the Beijing Morning Post, some 260 students from 13 universities have been trained as goodwill ambassadors and emergency helpers to help ensure a hassle-free experience for the APEC delegates.

While some got training on basic first-aid procedures, others got a crash course on how to smile and welcome foreigners.

One Beijing student said she felt very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be trained for the APEC summit. If the post-80s youngsters who were trained for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 were known as the Bird’s Nest Generation, the post-90s students would be proud to become the APEC Generation.

We are not sure if Hong Kong students have received enough training in their fight for democracy, nor are we sure if their struggle would last until the APEC summit, but we are sure that they have shown ample courtesy and true courage in their struggle. Surely, they should be proud to belong to the Umbrella Generation.

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EJ Insight writer

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