A secretive ceremony was held on Sunday at a restricted area of Ngong Shuen Chau naval base on Stonecutters Island to welcome secondary school and university students to the new Hong Kong Army Cadets. Anyone older than six can apply to join.
The group claims to be Hong Kong's first uniformed group to train members in Chinese-style military marching, and "aims to promote civic awareness, a sense of responsibility and rights as Chinese citizens", according to China Daily.
The group's "commander-in-chief" is Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's wife, Regina Tong Ching-yee, and many other public figures attended the event. But most news outlets were prevented from reporting on the event. The few that were invited included pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po and state broadcaster CCTV.
"I guess it was so secretive because it would have sparked a protest," said a 13-year-old international school student. "My friends and I didn't know about it."
Some students in Shenzhen didn't know about it either, including Veronica Lin, a 15-year-old student from Shenzhen College of International Education. "Due to the wide and insane reaction that Hong Kong citizens showed the entire country with Occupy Central, pro-Beijing groups probably won't do anything under the spotlight," said Veronica. "If they did, their safety would be in danger, and chaos would likely happen once again."
Sixteen-year-old PLK Vicwood KT Chong Sixth Form College student Sebastian Wong also didn't hear about the event. He's concerned about the young age at which the group can recruit.
"My guess is that they will start from the younger children who don't even have an idea of responsibilities and obligations," said Sebastian. "I think they will inject this kind of perception [in] innocent children, and let the situation become what it's like on the mainland, where the children 'love' China to an eerie level. In other words, this could just be a brainwashing project."
But at least one 15-year-old Hongkonger studying at an international school is unfazed by this. "I don't know what all the big fuss is about," the student said. "A bunch of students wore a green uniform and marched. So what?"
The uniform worn by the cadets is a brighter shade of the green summer uniform of the PLA Ground Force.