Editorial : Better policies towards young people needed

【明報專訊】REPERCUSSIONS of the storming of the Legco building are still being felt, with the vice‑chancellors of several universities condemning the violence and at the same time pleading all sides to engage in rational dialogue to sort out the differences.

The storming of the Legco building has severely weakened Hong Kong. The pro‑establishment camp has launched a vigorous attack on the action, while the pan‑democrats have not distanced themselves from the violence but have instead defended the protesters citing "institutional violence". Over the past few days, several professional bodies, religious groups and university vice‑chancellors have all said that violent acts of sabotage cannot be condoned and have pleaded all sides to discuss the matters peacefully and rationally.

The political deadlock continues and can only be broken with dialogue. We believe that the government, opponents of the amendment and leaders of society with credibility should hold a round‑table meeting and engage in dialogue that precludes any preconditions. The vice‑chancellors of the universities have said something that is similar in nature, all for the benefit of Hong Kong.

The fact that a handful of protesters have resorted to violence does not mean that the majority of protesters and young people believe that the use of violence is right. While saying no to the violence by a handful of people, the government and all sectors of society also have to understand the point of view of the majority of young people. Chief executive Carrie Lam has promised to interact more with young people to listen to their views in the future so as to repair the relationship with young people. A lawmaker suggests that Carrie Lam hold a large‑scale closed‑door "listening session" during the summer holiday, listening to the views of a random sample of young people coming from different social strata and encouraging young people who have taken to the streets over the past few weeks to participate in the session actively. This can be the first step. However, the government must also further reform its policies towards young people to make them feel that their views are treasured and that they have a role to play.

Since the handover, the SAR government has not attached much importance to policies towards young people. It realised its inadequacies only after the outbreak of the Occupy Movement in 2014, and began to take remedial action. Two aspects of the government's policies towards young people are much‑maligned. The first is that they are dominated by high‑ranking officials and the elite who are not young and who are completely out of sync with young people. The second is that they tend to treat young people as a "problem" that has to be dealt with rather than discuss matters together with them. According to a survey conducted by the CUHK in recent years, 70% of young people think that they have little influence over the government's policies. They also feel that the government has misinterpreted their needs, giving them a very strong sense of helplessness.

The SAR government is not returned in an election by universal suffrage. It is inherently lacking in a mandate. At the same time it has failed to devolve power to young people, making them feel alienated from and resistant to the establishment. There is a reason why some radical political discourses and proposals have caught on with young people. If the government wants to "reconnect" with young people, it has to take itself down a peg or two and start with the establishment to empower young people. For many years it has been proposed that the government create a youth council with "real powers" and let elected young people take part in the discussion and formulation of policies towards young people. Such a proposal can help address the problem of paternalism and is deserving of further study and consideration.

明報社評2019.07.04:政府青年政策失敗 聆聽之餘更要共議








round‑table : (of discussions, meetings, etc.) at which everyone is equal and has the same rights

precondition : sth that must happen or exist before sth else can happen

much‑maligned : often criticised by people

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