Teenagers spend December in rehearsals ahead of handover ceremony

In this September 2019 file photo, young people hold up China national flags during an event to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in front of the Ruins of St. Paul’s

School’s out earlier than usual this December for some local teenagers, who have been asked to step away from the classroom for a large part of the month to rehearse for the upcoming handover ceremony.

The Times has learned that teenagers and children belonging to school choirs have once again been asked to perform in the December 20 ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the transfer of Macau’s sovereignty to China. They will perform alongside professional groups, such as the Macao Orchestra and the Macao Chinese Orchestra.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to preside over the celebrations in what will become his first visit to the Macau SAR since late 2014.

According to sources the Times contacted this week, local organizers are leaving nothing to chance concerning the high-profile visit.

Youth choir members have reportedly been asked to take time off school this month to attend ceremony rehearsals held every other day since December 2. The rehearsals can last over 10 hours per day, and students are often required to stay until 10 p.m.

The Times understands that there are three scheduled rehearsals to be held in presence of Macau government officials before the big day.

Contacted by the Times, the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau (DSEJ) said that it is not responsible for the arrangements leading up to the handover celebration, which “are directly coordinated by the organizer and the school.” However, the bureau welcomed the children’s participation in the landmark celebration, saying it would be “a rare performance platform for students” and would contribute to their “diverse development.”

“The Education and Youth Affairs Bureau has always attached importance to the diverse development of students, and without affecting learning and rest, encourages them to participate in different activities and broaden their horizons,” the DSEJ wrote in an emailed statement. “The bureau hopes that students will benefit from participating in different beneficial physical and mental activities.”

The Cultural Affairs Bureau (IC), the principal organizer of the rehearsals, told the Times that the complexity of the large-scale event requires “a certain amount of time to communicate and coordinate.”

However, according to some ceremony participants, the time is not being well spent. The participants, who are not authorized to speak to the media and have been asked not to take photos of the preparations, said the busy December schedule has been wasteful and unorganized.

“The directors are not very capable,” commented one youth choir member, aged 17. “They change [the ceremony choreography] every day. They are wasting a lot of time.”

“It seems as though the organizers have no idea what they are doing,” said a musician also involved in the event. “I was part of the 10 year anniversary and it was very messy as well, but at least it was only two weeks. This time it’s three weeks, but they initially blocked out a whole month. Because they don’t know how to do it, they overdo it.”

“Every successful literary and artistic activity undergoes a continuous process of creation and polishing to present the best artistic results,” the IC answered in a written statement. “At the event, every detail adjustment is aimed at the excellence of artistic presentation.”

The IC did not directly respond to the allegations of poor organization, but promised to “strengthen communication and consultation with all parties” and “make appropriate deployments and arrangements according to the actual conditions.”

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