22 April 2019
A participant displays a badge after attending the launch ceremony of the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association on Sunday. Photo: Stand News
A participant displays a badge after attending the launch ceremony of the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association on Sunday. Photo: Stand News

Students allege they were unwittingly led into army cadets group

Some tertiary and secondary school students who took part in a summer military youth camp organized by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have complained that they were unwittingly made to appear as having joined the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association (HKACA), Apple Daily reported. 

Students said they were led to believe that they were attending a summer activity continuation event on Sunday, when in fact it turned out to be the inauguration ceremony of the HKACA, the report said.

Several students said they did not show up on their own will. Some were requested by their schools to attend the event, while some were lured by the welcome gift – a “07-style” PLA uniform.

A student, who gave his name as Jackie, told news website Strand News that he saw a post on social media for a summer camp organized by PLA, the Education Bureau and a non-profit group called Concerted Efforts Resource Centre. He decided to attend the event out of curiosity. 

Concerted Efforts Resource Centre was founded by Betty Tung, the wife of former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-Hwa. 

As he attended the Sunday ceremony, Jackie was shocked to hear that he was being referred to as one of the first 300 members of the HKACA, together with other military camp alumni and volunteers.

Meanwhile, several Secondary One students told reporters that they were asked to participate in the ceremony by their teachers just a week earlier. A school notice said all F.1 students were required to attend.

The students said their participation was not totally voluntary, and also added that they found the activity very boring.

The HKACA has drawn high-profile support, with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying; Zhang Xiaoming, Director of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong; and Major General Tan Benhong, Commander of the PLA in Hong Kong, serving as its patrons.

Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said youth training programs by the PLA were very well-received by youth and parents in the past. He said does not see any change in the PLA’s function in Hong Kong, and that there is no attempt by the military to interfere in Hong Kong affairs.

Starry Lee, an Executive Council member and member of pro-Beijing the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said she welcomed the launch of HKACA. The new association can help the youth get training on discipline and physical fitness, Lee said, adding that she will encourage her daughter to join the group.

Civic Party lawmaker Chan Ka-lok said PLA’s participation in affairs other than Hong Kong’s military defence and military facility management constitutes a blatant violation of the Garrison Law in the city. 

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