In the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, a hiring plan has been submitted aiming to win the hearts and minds of young people in Hong Kong. But a new survey suggests that's a tough mission.
Gordon Lam, a Hong Kong member of the Guangdong Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, submitted a proposal to the advisory body calling on the provincial government to set up an employment support agency for Hong Kong students.
He also said a government liaison body should "provide them with financial subsidies and referral information" so the students can "help service the development of the Greater Bay Area."
The Greater Bay Area plan is a grand vision by Beijing to turn nine Pearl River Delta cities along with Hong Kong and Macau into a regional economic and business hub that can compete with Tokyo or San Francisco's bay areas.
But, according to a new survey conducted by the Hong Kong Guangdong Youth Association, young Hong Kongers are not keen to participate. Lam is the vice-chairman of the youth association.
Citing factors such as lack of trust in the mainland's medical system, information barriers and low recognition of China's university qualifications, the majority of the young people interviewed rejected the idea of moving to Greater Bay Area for work or study.
"With the protests in Hong Kong, it can be foreseen that there will be even fewer young people from Hong Kong who would be willing to participate in the development of the Greater Bay Area," it said.
The survey also reported that 70% of young people would prefer the city to keep its distance from mainland China. More than half believed that universities in Hong Kong should not open their door to mainland Chinese students.
The study was comprised of six focus groups with about 200 interviewees in Hong Kong aged between 15 to 64. It was conducted late last year after anti-government protests broke out in the city.
The goal of the study was to "better understand young people's views on the mainland and the Greater Bay Area."
The survey indicated that respondents had a negative view of the plan and little sense of belonging to China.
While Hong Kong has been embroiled in more than six months of anti-government protests triggered by a now withdrawn extradition bill, cross-border animosity, especially among young people, was often cited as a factor that has fueled the unrest.
"Almost 60% of those interviewed said the Greater Bay Area plan would bring more harm than good to Hong Kong, and about half said the growing trend of mainlanders coming to Hong Kong for study and work has a negative impact," a report of the study said.
In his proposal, Lam said Guangdong could play a role in winning over young people as about 15,000 Hong Kong students " or one in six " were studying on the mainland, most of them in the southern province.
"According to Hong Kong government statistics, there are about 192,000 Hongkongers aged 15 to 39 in Guangdong," he said.
"The Guangdong government is in a much better position to provide work in the province than in Hong Kong and hence providing employment support would … enable us to implement our strategy (of narrowing the gap and reducing animosity between the two sides).
"The best way to enhance the quality of life for Hong Kong residents in Guangdong is by offering them employment support."
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