By the 1990s and noughties, o’camp activities had changed yet again and began to attract the attention of the news media. Chan, a senior executive at Radio Television Hong Kong, attributes some of these changes to influences from the media and the popularity of more provocative games among teenagers, “particularly in variety shows, such as [TVB’s] Supertrio Supreme, which embarrasses or degrades people for entertainment,” she says.
Pete Yeung Pak-yu who joined the Journalism and Communication School o’camp of CUHK in 1998 remembers being a “victim” in such games. Yeung says that as there were always more girls than boys in the school and the concept of “females are superior to males” was presented through games.
There were only 10 male students in Yeung’s year and he says o’camp student organizers set up some games to make the male freshmen lose. The 10 male freshmen were then punished by being asked to roll on the floor together. Although Yeung was angry, he did not say so at the time.
He also remembers scenes when students would have to shout slogans against those from other departments while praising their own. He says as there were more girls than boys in his school, slogans were not offensive.
But in other departments like Engineering, where there were more males, the slogans were more provocative. He recalls a song from the Engineering Department with lyrics about watching a woman being sexually assaulted.
While he was upset about having to roll on the floor, Yeung says that when he was on the o’camp organizing committee in 1999, he had the same mindset and liked to play tricks on freshmen. Committee members behaved that way because they were also treated like that when they were freshmen.
Apart from the introduction of games and activities that could embarrass or insult others, another development in o’camps in recent years is the growing power and prestige of group leaders in the camps.
Theron Sum Chun-yin was a chief group leader in the o’camp of Chung Chi College, CUHK in 2003. He says he felt great satisfaction when all the freshmen appreciated him and applauded him.
“Within few days, Jo ba (group father), Jo ma (group mother) become very close to their jo kids (groupmates)…the bonding, the unity between generations all starts from o’camps.”
“Being the group leader leading seventy or more freshmen in the o’camps, I felt a sense of responsibility as well as superiority,” continued Sum with a bashful face.
O’camps have changed down the years, but some things have remained constant. Meeting teachers, previewing the courses of the coming academic years, learning practical skills and absorbing information such as course enrolment strategies and games with different messages have always been a part of o’camp. Almost all students join o’camps and they are where most university friendships begin.
The central aim of o’camp has always been to prepare freshmen for university life, whatever that may be.