Several years ago, only about ten children traveled to Hong Kong for school over Luohu Bridge everyday. However, this number has increased to over 2,000 today.
Every morning, as soon as Luohu Port opens, many Shenzhen children in various school uniforms wave goodbye to their parents or relatives. After going through a series of exit procedures at the Passport-check Office, they get on the school buses waiting on the other side of Luohu bridge and set off to different schools in Hong Kong to begin another normal day of school.
Primary school students commuting between Shenzhen and Hong Kong have become a unique scene at the Luohu Port. To ensure that these children can get to school on time via a safe and quick process, Shenzhen Luohu Exit and Entrance office gives them special permission to enter the passport-check office via No.1 gate of the first floor to avoid the morning crush and then go to the third floor directly by lifts for passport check when they travel to Hong Kong. If a big number of students jams into the office, then a 'Green Channel' or a special channel will be arranged for their convenience. At about 4 pm, the students are returned to Luohu Port to go through another series of entry procedures, before arriving in their homes in Shenzhen.
Most of fathers of these children are permanent residents of Hong Kong, while their mothers live temporarily in Shenzhen without legal rights to reside in Hong Kong. For some, their parents are Hong Kong people who prefer to invest their money, work and buy houses in Shenzhen. Most of these children attend public primary schools along Sheung Shui and Sha Tian area, and live within the Luohu District of Shenzhen, in the neighborhood of Hong Kong. And some live a bit farther away, near the Shenzhen Reservoir or Liantang regions.
The students -- who are 14 years old or younger -- are all very independent, and their ability to face different or unexpected situation and to protect themselves seem much better than their counterparts living and studying in the hinterland.
Even during interviews, they are sophisticated in answering questions. In most circumstances, they only talk about themselves, trying to avoid topics regarding their parents and their family. These young students also are very polite to the officials at the Luohu port.
Like many new immigrants, Su Tao’s father came to Hong Kong at a young age. Later, he got married and became a father in Shenzhen, and settled into shuttling between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Two years ago, Su Tao’s parents were ratified to settle down in Hong Kong legally, but they still preferred to live in Shenzhen.
"To tell you the truth, I like living in Shenzhen. Our apartment is spacious with good lighting. But my parents want me to get an education in Hong Kong, where I can enjoy a very nice English-learning environment," Su Tao said. For him, the only inconvenience he has encountered is that he cannot discuss homework over the phone with his Hong Kong classmates in the evening.
"Hong Kong is a long-distance call. So I have to shorten our conversation and make it as brief as possible," he said.
For many parents, a main purpose in sending their children back and forth between Shenzhen and Hong Kong for schooling is to get them into Hong Kong's advanced education system, which meets international standards, especially in English. At the same time, they acknowledge that sending their children to Hong Kong holds down their family budget -- Hong Kong implements a nine-year free education, with a cap of 1,000 yuan (US$120.77) per child on all educational expenses, including books and transportation. So the cost is not necessarily higher than it would be in Shenzhen. Some parents also said that beyond Hong Kong’s providing a good English education, this kind of experience encourages their children to be independent in life.
"One China, Two Systems" policy not only pushes the economic cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, but also promotes the exchange between the two in culture, ideology and emotional attachment among family members. People concerned said that with the likelihood that more and more mainland residents will be marrying Hong Kong residents -- there will be more and more students from Shenzhen with Hong Kong identities going through Luohu Port for schooling in the future.
(中国新闻社 [Chinanews.com.cn], translated by Feng Shu for china.org.cn April 22, 2002)