Speaking as a former o’camp Jo ba (group dad), Dominic Tse, a PolyU graduate, admits there is peer pressure which forces freshmen to participate in the activities and this may lead to hard feelings.
“Most of the games come in the form of competitions, so students are under pressure to join,” Tse says. He adds the competition among different groups is taken seriously, so some students might force their group mates to do something they are uncomfortable with.
In the face of all the criticism of o’camps, Pete Yeung Pak-yu, a former o’camp organiser at CUHK, thinks society needs to stop being so uptight. He believes that playing offensive games is not a big deal and that young people aged 18 or above should know right from wrong.
“Is our society so conservative as to denounce students for playing offensive games?” He explains that while it is unacceptable for games to involve bullying, the organizers of offensive games are being unimaginative rather than malicious.
Yeung also believes some offensive games are an example of the subculture of universities. “There shouldn’t be only one culture in university, the existence of a subculture is necessary,” he says.
Yeung believes it is simply the case that people of previous generations will always find current issues and people problematic, simply because they do not understand the current culture.
Kay Lam, a newspaper columnist and the founder of the blog Plastic Hong Kong, also looks at the phenomenon of today’s o’camps from a cultural point of view. He thinks the offensive and sexual elements found in the camps have their origins in traditional Chinese culture.
According to Lam, traditional Chinese families are repressed. Parents are not willing to talk to their children about sex, as sex education terrifies parents. They always try hard to control their kids and protect them from getting hurt.
Unfortunately, once the youngsters get into university, they may find it hard to handle their sudden freedom, and this may eventually lead to acts that society finds outrageous.
Kursk, who teaches liberal studies in a secondary school, says students are like ballons; the greater the pressure inside, the greater the pressure is to release it. He suggests it is sexual repression in Hong Kong youths, especially the “good” students, that may give rise to the inappropriate games in orientation camps.
Kursk believes the power imbalance between seniors/leaders and freshmen in orientation camps is another cause of offensive games. He says the freshmen have to follow the instructions of senior leaders and their personal dignity is not respected. “The freshmen are the ones who have to play the game, that’s why the leaders think [the game] is funny!”
While Lam and Kursk are sympathetic to the students, Ivan Choy Chi-keung who teaches government and public affairs at CUHK, accuses society and the media in particular of hypocrisy.
“You cannot say the orientation camps held 30 years ago were morally right, but the ones held in recent years are wrong,” says Choy. He believes the rise of offensive games in recent years is due to the changing mindset of university students.