24 March 2019
CY Leung's policy address last week has only fueled the disenchantment among Hong Kong's youth. Photo: Reuters
CY Leung's policy address last week has only fueled the disenchantment among Hong Kong's youth. Photo: Reuters

Why HK youth hate Leung even more after his policy speech

According to a survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s policy address this year drew the lowest approval rating compared to his previous two such speeches, with only 30 percent of the respondents saying they are satisfied with it.

The total mark it gets is only 49.5, the first time it fell below 50 since an address by former leader Tung Chee-wah back in 2004. Thirty-eight percent of the interviewees said their confidence in the future of Hong Kong has dropped after Leung’s latest policy address, compared to 22 percent who expressed the opposite view.

As far as young people (aged between 18 and 29) are concerned, the results are even more disastrous: they only give the policy address a total mark of just 40.8, and 83 percent said they want Leung to resign. So what exactly has gone wrong with the policy address this year?

I think it’s understandable that Leung again stressed the importance of sticking to the Basic Law during the course of our political reform after the unprecedented Occupy Movement last year.

However, I think there are some problems with his tone when he said in his speech that he “needs to guide young people and university students through the process of understanding the constitutional relations between Hong Kong and the Mainland”. I don’t think our young people these days will easily succumb to such a patronizing tone, let alone Leung’s fierce bombardment of the campus journal “Undergrad” over its advocacy of Hong Kong’s independence.

Given that Leung selectively quoted the pro-independence articles published in the Undergrad at his press conference but deliberately ignored some other anti-independence articles in the same issue of that magazine — and given his crossfire with pan-democrats during the Q&A session at Legco the day after, I believe he didn’t say those words off the cuff, but only did so after serious consideration.

Attributing the Occupy campaign to students’ pro-independence thoughts, rather than public grievance about Hong Kong not being properly run, could this be Leung’s tactic to divert Beijing’s attention away from his incompetence?

One cannot deny that there are some who have been advocating the independence of Hong Kong, but these people only constitute an absolute minority of the general population.

To determine if Leung’s high-profile warning is justified, the Central Policy Unit can conduct a large-scale opinion poll over the subject, and find out the real percentage of the people of Hong Kong who support this cause.

Leung argued that he also has the right to criticize others like any other citizens and that people should respect his freedom of speech. True, but let’s not forget that bigger power comes with bigger responsibility, and that the words spoken by people in power can have far greater implications than words of an average person. Therefore people in power must always be careful about what they say.

As Leung has slammed the political standpoint of the Undergrad not as a general reader but as a political leader, it raises concern that the government is trying to silence opinions which it deems “politically incorrect” and undermine the freedom of speech of our society.

Meanwhile, the administration has kept arguing that tens of thousands of young people took part in the Umbrella Movement not because they supported the so-called “genuine election”, but because they couldn’t afford to buy their own homes or find decent jobs. Let’s assume the government is right about this, but has the policy address this year fulfilled the expectations of these economically disenchanted young people?

The answer is quite obvious. The policy address didn’t put forward any new plans to help young people become first-time home buyers, nor did it mention anything about the progress of the four “Youth Hostels” that Leung promised last year.

On the other hand, after reading the chapter “Optimizing Our Population for the Future”, I have the impression that local youth are pushed to the sidelines, while overseas talent and the second-generation of Hong Kong migrants seem to have taken the center-stage under Leung’s policy.

Hong Kong is undoubtedly an international city and therefore it is always in the public’s interest to attract the best foreign talent. However, both local and foreign talent should be allowed to compete with one another on a level playing field. I don’t see any reason why the government should offer preferential treatment to attract second-generation Hong Kong migrants in favor of local youth.

Besides, these young overseas Hongkongers might return by the hundreds and thousands and directly compete for jobs, or even housing resources, with local youth.

I have no intention whatsoever of provoking any disharmony between local and overseas young Hongkongers, but the administration should at least provide some objective and scientific evidence to convince the public why second-generation Hong Kong migrants should be given advantage over their local counterparts regardless of their experience and specialties.

Likewise, the government has proposed to draft a “talent list” to identify the kind of overseas talent we need, but I think the administration should rather cultivate our own local talent based on this talent list than import them from overseas.

There is no reason to believe that Leung deliberately wanted to upset the youth further with his policy address, so I hope he can read my article and think about the problems I have pointed out in order to come up with some remedies.

I also hope that our young people can stay less focused on politics and look more into the social and economic implications of the policies outlined in the policy address and express their own views.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 21.

Translation by Alan Lee

– Contact us at [email protected]


Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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