China's President Xi Jinping visits new police training centre for youth in Hong Kong

China's President Xi Jinping inspects People's Liberation Army soldiers at a barracks in Hong Kong.
China's President Xi Jinping inspects People's Liberation Army soldiers at a barracks in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - After inspecting troops of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Hong Kong garrison on Friday morning, President Xi Jinping toured a new police training centre for youth in Hong Kong, reported local media.

The tour, according to South China Morning Post, is his first interaction with ordinary Hong Kongers since arriving here around noon on Thursday. He is in Hong Kong  for a three-day visit to mark the 20th anniversary of the city's return to China.

Unlike his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, Mr Xi will not be meeting local families during this trip. Mr Xi had done so when he visited Hong Kong in 2008. He was the Vice-President at that time.

Mr Xi arrived at training camp for the city's Junior Police Call (JPC) shortly after 11am, reported local media.

The JPC has about 190,000 members at the end of 2016, and 4,097 of them were ethnic non-Chinese. They are aged between nine and 25.

The JPC was set up in 1974 by then the British chief police information officer Andrew Rennie who wanted to redress a lack of contact between police and youth.

During his visit to the Junior Police Call Permanent Activity Centre and Integrated Youth Training Camp in Yeun Long, Mr  Xi thanked the city's 30,000-strong police force for its dedication which underpinned Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.

He described the younger generation as the “future”, and urged them to grasp the opportunities and contribute to Hong Kong and the country’s development, reported local broadcaster RTHK.

Hong Kong's large and well-equipped police force is responsible for security in the city. In more recent years, relations between the Hong Kong's police force and the public have became strained following the 2014 Occupy Central protests and the 2016 Mongkok riots. Both incidents saw violent clashes between the police and protesters.

Outgoing Chief executive Leung Chun Ying, the son of a policeman, announced the plan to set up the training camp in his policy address last year as part of the police force's youth outreach efforts.

Mr Xi was briefed by JPC members on the aims of the JPC scheme, its facilities and training efforts, reported SCMP.

The Chinese leader, accompanied by Mr Leung and other top officials, also chatted with JPC members before posing for a group photo, reported The Standard newspaper.

Chinese leaders have stressed the need for Hong Kong to strengthen national education among Hong Kong's youth so as to instill patriotism and a love for the motherland from a young age.

Hong Kong's incoming leader Carrie Lam told Xinhua state news agency in an interview she would seek to cultivate the concept of "I am Chinese" from kindergarten level.

A recent Hong Kong University survey of 120 Hong Kongers aged between 18 and 29 found that only 3.1 per cent identified themselves as "Chinese" or "broadly Chinese".