Junior Primary category champion Li Lin-mo, from Fukien Secondary School Affiliated School, shows her trophy to the camera. (EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY)

The Hong Kong regional contest of the “21st Century Cup” National English Speaking Competition has provided gifted Hong Kong students an ideal stage to showcase their talents, and valuable opportunities for them to keep bettering themselves, contest participants said on Sunday at its awards ceremony.

Ma Hiu-chun, a junior from the University of Hong Kong, has participated in the competition four times and this year won the top prize in the university category — her best personal showing.

Ma is a veteran contestant of many English-speaking competitions. But the “21st Century Cup” contest is markedly different from them, with its wide-ranging and all-encompassing topics, covering areas such as geography, astronomy and international news, she said. The contest is a great opportunity to constantly improve herself, Ma said.

Ma, who has participated in the national final before, said that the level of English of competitors from the Chinese mainland is quite good. To get good marks, she would have to work hard to prepare for the competition.

Ma’s mother, Wong Mei-lan, said she was very proud when she saw her daughter holding the trophy at the awards ceremony. She said the whole contest was very professional, including its setup, the judges, and the final awards ceremony.

“The competition opens the door of greater opportunity for children, through which they are able to embark on their journey to the outside world, and meet more people and appreciate cultures across the globe,” Wong said.

Li Lin-mo from Fukien Secondary School Affiliated School participated in the competition for the first time and won the Junior Primary category.

“By attending the competition, my speaking skills got improved and my courage of making a public speech was also boosted,” she said.

Also praising the competition was Rita Li, a mother of two students from the Independent Schools Foundation Academy, both of whom have participated in the contest and one of whom was crowned champion in the Junior Secondary category.

She said the contest was an excellent opportunity for students to build confidence, practice skills, and learn from other contestants. As a parent who accompanied her children to prepare for the contest, she is also increasingly aware of the importance of bilingual education.

Christina Ng and Joanne Wu, teachers at the True Light Middle School of Hong Kong, said they believed that the competition provides a professional platform for students to practice English skills outside the campus. “Conceivably, there are many obstacles along the way, but they will do better and be more confident as they practice over and over again,” Wu said.

Raymond Lo Kai-cheung, founder and chairman of Seeding’s Culture Youth Exchange Centre, a local nonprofit organization supporting Hong Kong youth development, said he has helped promote the competition among local young people since it was introduced in Hong Kong in 2017. He said he was delighted to witness the competition growing in scale, with more participants, recognition and achievements.

He noted that more Hong Kong youngsters have achieved excellent results in the national contest, which reflects the city’s advantages in language as an international city.

Lo said he hopes the competition will develop into a world-class English competition in the future, attracting young people from various nations to show their talents.

Contact the writers at oasishu@chinadailyhk.com