Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
Hong Kong is a vibrant city offering best of both worlds – culturally rich and business wise. It has a good mixture of preserving tradition and coping with the modern ways of living. These characteristics are widely seen through modern infrastructures vis-à-vis historical buildings, vast highways vis-à-vis narrow district alleys and our much efficient train system vis-à-vis our walla-walla. With this beautiful coexistence plus being one of Asia’s strongest economic hubs, Hong Kong has been very attractive to the younger generation not only for locals but for foreign nationals as well. Although I have been starting to ask myself – is this still the reality? Does the youth still have high hopes for Hong Kong? Do they still see their bright future in Hong Kong? If not, what is causing this change of heart?
Studies and surveys show that almost 60% of young Hongkongers say that they want to emigrate. Apart from the exceptionally expensive housing issue that is affecting life and marriage planning, extreme gap between the rich and poor, 80% of them are unhappy about politics. One of the most common reasons is lack of true freedom. Yes – it is a fact that Hongkongers may still have the means to enjoy our freedom of speech and opinion but we surely do have limited political means to act upon it and truly change our situation.
I do not blame the big portion of the youth for feeling dismayed about the political situation in Hong Kong. A lot has happened recently that made them even more skeptical about our undemocratic government system. The most recent one was the disqualification of a promising youth leader to run for the legislative council for the reason of standing up for democracy. It was truly both astonishing and disheartening to see how the government was able to hinder an aspiring future leader who is full of hope and aspiration to create a better Hong Kong.
I have lived in a time when the handover transition was happening. I can say I have experienced good governance under a transparent government before the handover and witnessed the rights of Hong Kong people eroding both in gradual and abrupt ways after the handover. On the other hand, the youth of today was born in a very different circumstance compared to what I have experienced. They grew and are still growing up under an authoritarian government. The full democracy that was promised 20 years ago is obviously not being presently experienced.
This is the reason why I strongly believe that creating an environment where youth involvement is highly supported and given importance is very crucial at the present time. This could actually save Hong Kong. One of the basic and first steps to ensuring this type of environment is through respecting academic freedom. The Hong Kong Education Bureau has recently spoken about the importance of academic freedom as a social value treasured by Hong Kong and protected by the Basic Law. I think it is healthy to leave space for the youth to think on their own and let their creativity and critical thinking flourish even with politically sensitive issues – with our responsibility as the elder cluster of the society to set good examples by upholding academic freedom, institutional autonomy and most especially the freedom given under the Basic Law.
Late last year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam vowed greater role for Hong Kong’s youth. In her policy address, she promised to appoint more youth to policy research units and government committees. This effort aimed to give youth the experience and taste of public administration and have their voices directly heard by the seniors of the government. This could be misleading because “hearing” and really “listening” are totally two different stories. If we want the youth to have a good experience in leading, as policy makers, we should ensure that we take their constructive criticisms and show them that we are willing to do something about it. We should give them the hope that things will be better through our concrete actions. Clearly, this is not the circumstance now.
I am also very keen on globalising our youth and exposing them to the realities and experiences of other countries. I would like them to realize that human rights and freedom are universal values – and us Hongkongers equally have the right to experience them as other nations do. I would like them to keep in mind that Hong Kong and Beijing have responsibilities under international agreements and covenants adopted by the United Nations.
It was a privilege to speak at a global youth forum yesterday and see how a huge part of the younger generation is very keen on finding their life goals and are still interested in creating a better Hong Kong alongside their dreams. This gives me high hopes for our future.
To my dear youth and future decision makers, this is not the time to lose hope and let go of what you have started. Always look beyond economical-focused success which is merely driven by a materialistic mindset. Work on your personal goals, find your life’s purpose and make sure it is in line with a better future for the generations to come. Never stop believing that things could change because you – you are the change. Determination and perseverance are the most important now. Keep the seed that you have gained from the umbrella movement. Plant it in your hearts and let it grow in your souls. Let it be your inspiration. When another opportunity arises, grab it and make a positive change. But for now – make sure you keep yourselves out of jail.