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LCQ5: Enhancing youth's awareness of natural ecology conservation
     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Leung and a reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (March 15):
     The report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China puts forward "acting on the principle that lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets", "stronger ecological conservation and environmental protection across the board, in all regions, and at all times", and "promoting harmony between humanity and nature". On the other hand, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has introduced, among others, a new nature conservation policy and the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan to step up nature conservation. There are views pointing out that enhancing the awareness of natural ecology conservation among the young generation is an important aspect of conservation policy. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the work of the Environment and Ecology Bureau and related government departments on enhancing students' and youth's understanding of nature conservation through education activities and encouraging their participation in nature conservation activities, as well as the effectiveness of such work; 

(2) given that the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau and the former Home Affairs Bureau organised in the past quite a number of Thematic Youth Internship Programmes to the Mainland that were related to nature conservation, such as the Youth Internship Programme at Wolong National Nature Reserve, Sichuan, Youth Internship Programme on Biodiversity Conservation in Wuyishan and Youth Internship Programme at Shandong on Marine Sciences, of the effectiveness of such internship programmes, and whether the Government will expeditiously resume the organisation of such internship programmes and increase their number of places, so as to provide more youth with internship and exchange opportunities in respect of conservation work; and 

(3) as there are views pointing out that the giant pandas given by the Central Authorities as gifts to Hong Kong on two occasions have all along been an important means which enables Hong Kong young people to learn about the natural ecology of the motherland and deepens their awareness of environmental conservation and protection of rare wild animals, and as currently there is only one pair of giant pandas remaining in Hong Kong, whether the authorities will consider requesting the Central Authorities to send an additional pair of giant pandas to Hong Kong, so as to step up the work on promoting conservation among the young people in Hong Kong and enhancing their understanding of the country's natural ecology; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that? 


     Nature conservation and biodiversity are indispensable to sustainable development of our society. As stipulated in the report of the 20th National Congress of our country, the nature provides the basic conditions for human survival and development, and we must maintain harmony between humanity and nature when planning our development. Hong Kong has a variety of marine and terrestrial habitats, nurturing a rich biodiversity in this small place. The Government attaches great importance to protecting Hong Kong's precious natural ecology, of which about 40 per cent of the land has been designated as country parks and special areas, compared well with many other cities with similar level of economic development. The Government has been enhancing public education and publicity on nature conservation, with a view to cultivating an awareness among the younger generations on protecting the nature, thereby ensuring continuity of our conservation work.
     Having consulted the Education Bureau, the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau (HYAB) and the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau, my consolidated reply to the three parts of the question raised by the Hon Kenneth Leung is as follows:
(1) The Government proactively provides opportunities for young people to enhance their knowledge and skills on nature conservation as well as develop good values. Regarding school curricula, environmental conservation has been incorporated into the curricula of subjects including General Studies of primary schools, as well as Geography, Citizenship and Social Development, Science and Technology Education of secondary schools. On teaching resources, the Government has rolled out the Long-term Decarbonisation E-Learning Platform and the Curriculum-based Outdoor Learning Programmes in Country Parks, providing materials that assist teachers and students to learn about conservation of natural environment. The Government also supports schools in implementing diversified educational activities. For instance, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) conducts country park-themed school visits, which were attended by a total of about 17 000 students in 2022. The Environment and Ecology Bureau, with the support of the Environmental Campaign Committee, has also launched the Student Environmental Protection Ambassador Scheme and the Green Prefect Programme, providing students with training related to nature conservation as well as various opportunities to gain practical experience, such as field trips, coastal conservation and cleaning, etc. In the 2022/23 school year, more than 400 schools have participated in these two programmes.  
     On education activities outside schools, the AFCD operates various volunteer and ambassador programmes in the Hong Kong Wetland Park, country parks and marine parks, providing opportunities for nature lovers, including young people, to participate in the management of the parks and nature conservation work. The AFCD also organises various public education activities regularly, such as hiking and planting day, guided tours of the nature, game booths, workshops, photo and drawing competitions, roving exhibitions, hiking activities, etc. In 2022, a total of about 200 000 people participated in the above public education activities, many of which were young people. Also, the AFCD supports local non-profit-making organisations to organise education programmes on biodiversity through the Subventions for Biodiversity Education. The amount of subvention involved has reached $8.7 million so far, attracting about 50 000 people to participate in the relevant activities.
     There were positive feedback and active participation from schools and young people for the activities above. The Government will continue to enhance the education and promotion work on nature conservation, with a view to further raising young people's awareness towards nature conservation. 
(2) The Youth Development Blueprint released by the HYAB earlier stated that the Government would further promote young people's understanding of our country and the world. This includes pushing ahead with the Thematic Youth Internship Programmes to the Mainland (Thematic Programmes) in collaboration with cultural and scientific research institutions in the Mainland. The Thematic Programmes organised in the past included the Youth Internship Programme at Wolong National Nature Reserve, Sichuan, Youth Internship Programme at Shandong on Marine Sciences and Youth Internship Programme at Wuyishan on Biodiversity Conservation. These three programmes achieved notable results by providing internship opportunities relating to nature conservation to over 80 Hong Kong youths from 2017 to 2019. The programmes strengthened the young people's understanding of nature conservation, marine science and biodiversity conservation etc, and helped nurture their talents and passion to develop career in the relevant fields in future.
     With the resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland, the HYAB is resuming various exchange and internship programmes in a gradual and orderly manner, including the Youth Internship Programme at Wolong National Nature Reserve, Sichuan this summer. In addition, we are working closely with other work units to actively explore the possibility of organising more Thematic Programmes this summer, and the details will be announced later.
(3) Hong Kong is the home of a pair of adorable giant pandas, Ying Ying and Le Le. They have always played an important role in promoting our country's ecology and conservation culture, representing the connection between our country and Hong Kong and providing young people with an avenue to deepen their understanding of our motherland.
     As for negotiating with the Central Government to give an additional pair of giant pandas to Hong Kong, the Government will consider the relevant proposal and will announce in due course if there is any further information.
     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:15
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