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London calling and Beijing is answering
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By Lin Qi

"Liang zhi lao hu, liang zhi lao hu, pao de kuai, pao de kuai (two tigers, two tigers, running fast, running fast)..." Azhar Choudhry chants trying hard to pronounce correctly.

The Chinese children's song, Two Tigers, is seldom sung these days, but for Choudhry and his young UK friends, the melody is easy to remember and became a theme song for their week-long exchange visit to China.

UK-China 400 is a project involving 400 young Chinese and Brits, who will journey back and forth between Beijing and London between now and 2010.

The first group of 100 British participants finished their Beijing leg last week, having had a "fantastic and fruitful" trip.

The young men and women visited Hangzhou, Zhejiang province and Chongqing municipality last week.

"I don't want to go back. But also, I can't wait to tell my dad what I've seen and felt," Choudhry says.

The 28-year-old London policeman had dreamt of coming to China.

"My dad has been here a lot and I was fascinated by his traveling anecdotes of the incredible land and its people, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and other stuff," he adds.

His most impressive and interesting experiences included an afternoon at a primary school in Beijing and a visit to a Hangzhou family home.

Half of the delegation visited the Anmin Primary School, whose 300-odd students come from nearby rural migrant communities. They tried their hand at juggling diabolos (Chinese yoyo) under the guidance of these 11-year-old diabolo "masters".

During a three-day stay in Hangzhou, they experienced the daily life of a typical family. And to the interest of several group members with policing backgrounds, one of their hosts was also a police officer.

"I asked many questions relevant to his job, for instance, the police rankings, the law system, expectations of the public and how they help people involved in crimes," Choudhry says.

The group also visited a disabled school, a university, various private enterprises and public offices. Since a lot of delegates are youth workers or community volunteers, they were eager to better understand how these activities are carried out in the Middle Kingdom.

One group discussed youth rights and protection with staff from the Beijing-based 12355 Youth Support Center.

The center provides hotlines, which offer legal and psychological support for adolescents and is now widespread in 100 cities across the country.

"The (UK-China 400) program takes the UK-China exchange to a new strategic level, says Robin Rickard, deputy director China and director Beijing, British Council, one of the organizers.

"Through these talented and able young people, our countries will see levels of understanding and trust between our young people increase."

The Chinese visits to the UK will start in 2009. "When they come to London, I hope we can be as friendly and generous as our Chinese hosts here," Choudhry says.

(China Daily November 18, 2008)

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