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A Hong Kong youngster pursues his dream on the mainland

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A Hong Kong youngster pursues his dream on the mainland

May 05
19:05 2023

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/d0hhxjKx0I0

Bundled with ambitions and dreams, 23-year-old Lee Hiu Feng, born and raised in Hong Kong, arrived in Dongguan, Guangdong Province on the Chinese mainland, in 2021. Home to over 190,000 industrial enterprises, Dongguan stands out as a major manufacturing hub in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), which consists of Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions (SARs) and nine cities in Guangdong. Lee’s destination was one of those companies.

His decision to live in Dongguan was not merely a whim. “My sister has been living and working on the mainland for over a decade since she graduated from Beijing Language and Culture University. She often shared what she saw and heard there with me, so I had been looking forward to experiencing it myself for a long time,” Lee told Beijing Review.

So one summer holiday when he was still in college, he completed an internship in Shanghai. “Through this opportunity, I got to know more about the mainland’s economic development and lifestyle and realized its market is brimming with opportunity and room for development. It was then that the idea of settling down on the mainland after graduation first occurred to me.”

Coincidentally, in 2021, the year Lee graduated from the Department of Journalism and Communication at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, the Hong Kong SAR Government rolled out the GBA Youth Employment Scheme. Under the scheme, companies with operations in Hong Kong and mainland GBA cities were provided with incentives to offer job vacancies to eligible graduates from Hong Kong. For up to 18 months or until the first quarter of 2023, whichever was earlier, the SAR Government granted participating companies a monthly allowance of HK$10,000 ($1,275) per graduate they employed.

“It was very appealing to me,” Lee said, describing how he felt when the measures were announced. After a process of searching and comparing potential employers, he found the company he is currently with—Dongguan Shidai Leather Products Factory Co. Ltd., affiliated to Sitoy Group Holdings Ltd. “The company was then diversifying its business operations. I thought it would be a challenging chance for me. At the same time, it has a comprehensive management trainee program to help us improve our skills and find the right career direction,” Lee explained.

 

Lee Hiu Feng from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region at work in Dongguan Shidai Leather Products Factory Co. Ltd. in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, on March 21 (COURTESY PHOTO)

Coming to town

After 18 months of training, Lee moved on to a position he was satisfied with—marketing and operations executive. His role includes brand promotion in the domestic market and management of offline stores.

“The company gives me a platform to display my abilities,” he said. “The job connects my personal and career interests, so I believe I can apply my knowledge to help the company grow.”

Things were going smoothly at work, but as for fully adapting to his life here, Lee admitted it took him some time. “To be honest, when I first arrived in Dongguan, especially in Houjie Town, where my company’s factory is located, I was feeling a bit out of place. The town is totally different from Hong Kong with all the skyscrapers and dazzling neon lights,” Lee recalled. “Fortunately, the lifestyles in both places are similar. Every time I hear Cantonese or take a bite of classic Cantonese dim sum, I feel very close to home. Besides, my colleagues are very helpful. Many of them are of my age, so we get along very well.”

After living there for nearly two years, Lee has become deeply integrated into the local culture. “Life on the mainland is convenient, as long as I know how to use food delivery apps, e-commerce platforms and online ride-hailing services,” he said. “Houjie is clearly not an international metropolis, but it has its own development model. For example, Dongguan’s convention and exhibition industry is well-developed, and Houjie often hosts international exhibitions. It’s quite an interesting juxtaposition to see elements of large-scale events in this small town.”

From county to city

As developed as it is now, Dongguan’s emergence as a true city is a recent phenomenon. Before 1978, 80 percent of its labor force was engaged in agriculture. Output of its less than 400 industrial enterprises, mostly small workshops, accounted for only 30 percent of the local economy. The launch of the country’s reform and opening-up policy in 1978, fundamentally changed the situation.

Around the same period, many enterprises in Hong Kong, which was under British colonial rule at that point, ran into difficulties due to its rising labor costs, and some Hong Kong entrepreneurs turned their eyes to the mainland to seek alternative factory sites.

Benefiting from its exceptional geographical location in the heart of the Pearl River Delta and on the banks of the region’s major commercial artery, Dongguan attracted a lot of investment and introduced the “three-plus-one” trading mix, which involves assembly work, making products based on provided samples, processing supplied materials and compensation trade. In the context of zero capital accumulation, this model is undoubtedly the optimal choice for Dongguan at the time.

Commonly, Hong Kong-funded companies’ business operations would be carried out in Hong Kong and manufacturing would be completed in Dongguan. Later, many investors from China’s Taiwan and overseas, who were facing the dilemma of industrial transfer, also discovered the potential of Dongguan. This triggered a boom in the introduction and utilization of overseas capital in the city. Old manual workshops were upgraded into modern factories, transforming Dongguan into an export-oriented processing base, which became a hot destination for the transfer of global manufacturing industrial chains. Its economy soared all the way through its transition to this model. In 1988, Dongguan was officially upgraded from a county to a prefecture-level city.

Released in February 2019, the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao GBA positions Dongguan together with Shenzhen as a key to developing a globally influential and competitive cluster of world-class manufacturing industries. Today, the ever-accelerating development of the GBA further pushes forward the development of Dongguan, and brings with it a large influx of population. At the end of 2021, Dongguan’s resident population stood at 10.5 million people.

Sitoy Group is thriving through pursuing innovation, attracting many ambitious young people like Lee.

“My family supports me pursuing my own dream. They are expecting I will build my life and career on the mainland,” Lee said. “Plus, they don’t have to worry about not being able to get together with me, as the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link is now in operation. It takes me just one hour to get from Dongguan to Hong Kong by train. I sometimes go home over the weekend to see my family and friends, or the other way around. We call this the ‘one-hour living circle’.”

When it comes to the future, Lee doesn’t have many specific plans, but there is one thing of which he is certain. “I hope to realize my full potential, and make a life on the mainland,” he concluded.

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Website: https://youtu.be/d0hhxjKx0I0