Why young people are pessimistic about Hong Kong's future

October 11, 2016 14:24
Young Hong Kong people can transform their pessimism into an overriding desire to seek changes for a brighter future. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong's older generation apparently finds it hard to understand the youth's pessimism about the future.

A recent survey conducted by AIESEC, an international non-profit organization for leadership development, showed that 59 percent of young Hongkongers believe that things will get worse in the territory by 2030.

The poll covered about 2,000 people in the city aged 16 to 30.

The young people cite the aging population and uneven distribution of resources as the city's top challenges.

Youth Commission chairman Lau Ming-wai, who attended a forum organized by AIESEC on Monday, said he's at a loss as to why so many young people feel so despondent.

Lau said the situation is complex and he couldn't find a single root cause to explain the youth's pessimism.

Indeed, the situation is quite complex for older Hong Kong people, who enjoyed the success of the economy in the past decades and are now retired.

The older generation believe that a good place for earning money is a good place for all.

But halcyon days are fading away, and the youth are faced with the prospects of stagnant income, shrinking economic opportunities, widening inequality, unaffordable home prices and a government that seems bent on taking away their freedoms.

Let's take the controversial complaint of newly elected lawmaker Yau Wai-ching, who said that young people can even find a place to have sex.

While many people ridiculed Yau for her language, no one can deny that young people no longer feel comfortable with the lack of space and privacy in the city as home prices continue to soar.

On the other hand, former lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, fresh from her election defeat, chose to criticize Yau's long tresses, saying that the young localist politician is contributing to environmental degradation by using so much water and shampoo to clean her hair.

Ho's criticism shows that she has completely lost touch with the younger generation, and that could be the reason she lost her Legco seat.

Yau was talking about the housing problem, but Ho decided to shift the topic to hairstyles.

The political environment is no doubt a major source of anxiety for the young generation.

As far as young people are concerned, the government has failed to promote and protect their interests in the past three years since Leung Chun-ying became chief executive in 2012.

For them, the government represents the interests of Beijing, oftentimes to the detriment of the city and its people.

The government appears bent on re-engineering their minds by introducing patriotic education into the school curriculum, which simply means making them loyal supporters of the ruling Communist Party in mainland China and all its policies concerning the territory.

But today's young people are in living in a globalized and digital age, where information is wide and free, making them aware of the infinite opportunities that life can offer.

The experience of the internet has made it absolutely important for them to live in freedom, and any action on the part of the authorities to curb or abridge that freedom is unacceptable to them.

That is why, in the survey, young people believe that Hong Kong's future is dim, judging by the way Beijing, through CY Leung's administration, is implementing the One Country, Two Systems principle.

They feel a sense of alienation because while they are voicing out their woes about the current state of affairs, the leaders are accusing them of unpatriotic acts.

The truth is the young people just want to defend Hong Kong's core values, the elements that made the city such a success in the past.

They are patriotic to Hong Kong, but cannot give their loyalty to the powers who appear intent on destroying the values that they hold dear.

How can they feel optimistic about the future when one of their own, the student leader Joshua Wong, was denied entry to Thailand last week, apparently at the behest of Beijing, which is supposed to protect his right to travel?

How can they feel optimistic about the future when all they see are threats to their freedoms?

Even the rise of China as an economic and military power holds no promise for Hong Kong youth. For them, its strength will only mean more suppression of their rights.

China's growing influence would mean that more nations would abide by its wishes and lend its support in quelling opposition.

That would mean lesser freedom of movement for Hong Kong people who oppose its policies, regardless of the Basic Law provision that guarantees their freedom of travel.

Young Hongkongers may feel pessimistic under the current dispensation, but they can turn that pessimism into an overriding desire to seek changes for a brighter future.

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EJ Insight writer