Generation gap

July 10, 2019 13:12
Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks to media regarding the extradition bill on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

June was the cruelest month for embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as her extradition bill drew both local and international denunciation, but July is not likely to bring solace to her crisis-gripped administration.

After hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets to protest, after all the clashes between the police and the youth, after the Legislative Council was stormed and ravaged, and after several deaths linked to the current political turmoil occurred, the chief executive finally admitted that the much-reviled legislation is "dead" and the government's work for the bill was "a complete failure".

Indeed, she has hoisted the white flag of defeat, but for those who have taken part in the campaign against her bill, it was not enough even as they think her apologies for causing all the trouble were not sincere enough. They want to hear her say it "loud and clear" that she is scrapping the bill altogether.

The chief executive says she wants to reach out to these angry and frustrated kids, listen to their views and sentiments, to be given another chance to heal the divisions.

But it seems the youth representatives, the leaders of university student unions, simply don't trust her anymore.

They want her to show her sincerity by ensuring that no charges will be filed against those who participated in protests against her extradition bill. 

She rejected this demand outright, saying that declaring a blanket amnesty at the moment is out of the question because it would go against the rule of law.

As the deadlock remains, Carrie Lam finds herself stuck in a very sticky situation: she cannot appease her critics but she also cannot step down because Beijing won't let her.

She also cannot secure workable advice from her team, who, like her, are mostly Baby Boomers.

Perhaps that is part of the problem. They are unable to understand the anger and frustration of the youth because they live in another world, another time.

If Carrie Lam, who is 62, wants to continue in office, perhaps she should hire more people who can truly understand the youth, meaning those who are much younger than the current members of her team.

But looking at her cabinet, one of the youngest members – and rumored to be her Plan B – is Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah, who is turning 60 next year.

In her Executive Council, the youngest member is legislator Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, who is 45. Out of the council's 33 members, he is the only one who is aged below 50.

Looks like we are not going to see any meaningful progress unless there is some radical change in the government, such as more people belonging to the post-'80s generation making it to the top of the power structure.

So let’s not just talk about grooming youngsters to be the leaders of tomorrow. Let's start letting them lead now. 

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EJ Insight writer