The past three months of protests have put Hong Kong youth in the spotlight, and our political views often determine how we perceive them.
For many of those who agree with what they are fighting for, they are seen as heroes who were able to stop the government foisting a much-reviled extradition law upon our people; they are the true vanguards of democracy who have devoted themselves – and are even willing to sacrifice their safety and their future – to fight for the values we hold most dear.
But there are also many who disapprove of what they have done in the pursuit of their struggle. Who would like to see the vandalism and damage to property? How many of us missed our appointments, our flights, or were not able to go to work on time because of the disruptions they have caused? And what about the impact of all this chaos on our economy, on our image as a city?
In times of conflict, the two sides often blame each other for the adverse outcome, for the negative consequences.
Our young people are angry and frustrated, but how do we tell them that violence and destruction cannot win the day for them?
Would calling them “cockroaches”, as some pro-establishment legislators and members of the police force have done, or accusing them of moral turpitude help win the hearts and minds of the public or justify the use of excessive force by the police against them?
If anything, such views and allegations only betray how little the people in government, the Baby Boomers, understand the youth. They also give us little confidence that this crisis will be resolved soon.
Consider the remarks of Executive Council member Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, who claimed that some of the young girls in the protest movement, some as young as 14 years old, have been misled to give free sex to frontline protesters, and that one even got pregnant after doing it with several men.
Her remarks were in response to a radio listener’s email that made such an accusation. Speaking on RTHK’s Backchat show on Monday, Law “confirmed” that such a case did happen, citing “the daughter of a friend’s friend” who shared her story on social media.
The protesters dismissed her allegations as “fake news”.
In this morning’s press conference, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was asked about Law’s comments. She said those were “her own personal views”.
The CE went on, giving her adviser what amounted to a thinly veiled reprimand: “In the last couple of months or so, there were a lot of fake news or rumors or speculations circulating on the social media. I would advise that if any of these rumors, allegations, speculations concern breaches of the law or, in other words, if somebody suspects that offenses have been made, then they should report them to the police, or at least they should consult the professionals or their own family members.
“For others who have read such reports or rumors, if they want to provide a sort of advisory note, then I hope that is also to be understood. At the end of the day, the most important thing … is that every one of us, including government officials, because we are also receiving a lot of information circulating in the social media, we have to be extremely cautious in ascertaining whether it is accurate.”
As to be expected, Law’s allegation angered some of the radio program’s listeners, who accused her of spreading rumors.
Having sex with a minor is an offense, whether or not there is consent. Violators face a 10-year jail term if convicted.
But as things stand at the moment, and despite Law’s claim that there is evidence, the allegation can only be seen as a cheap attempt to malign the protest movement. Not even Law’s status as an Exco member and the fact that she previously headed the education department that introduced liberal studies into the curriculum, can give credence to such an outrageous claim.
If we want to heal the wounds of society, we should go out of our way to listen to the youth and try to understand them.
Compared to some government officials and pro-establishment figures, the city’s tycoons appear more sympathetic to our younger generation.
Michael Kadoorie, chairman of CLP Holdings, urged all of Hong Kong to unite and work together to pull our youth out of their desperation and despair, saying “it is the responsibility of us all to rebuild trust in the community and create hope for the younger generation”.
Li Ka-shing urged the city’s leaders to “have mercy” on the “masters of our future” while hoping that our young people will consider looking at the big picture.
Instead of pointing the finger at them, these men of wisdom are showing our city’s youth that they care.
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(Updated: last posted at 1:07 p.m.)