Fight for your rights
By Elaine Yau
DEMONSTRATORS chant slogans outside the Legislative Council building in Central under the scorching sun.
Groups of protesters are showing their opposition to the merging of the KCRC and MTR Corporation. At the same time, a much younger crowd is shouting slogans about children's rights.
The students, carrying pink placards, submit their petition to the legislators.
The young activists are members of Kids' Dream, the first organisation run by children in Hong Kong.
Set up last year, Kids' Dream provides a platform for children to voice their views on issues that affect them.
Today's young people face many problems. The young lobbyists are fighting for the establishment of a children's commission to attend to their needs.
Despite the sweltering heat and occasional shower, Elaine Cheng, 22, and her colleagues had been standing outside Legco since 10am. They were supporting legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who was due to put forward a non-binding motion on the setting up of a children's commission after the railway merger debate in Legco.
The young people are determined to get their voices heard.
'I've been fighting for the setting up of the commission since 2000,' said Ms Cheng, a Year Three philosophy student from Lingnan University.
'Many advanced countries have a children's commission dedicated to improving the well-being of children.
'In Hong Kong, matters relating to children's welfare come under different departments. For example, the Social Welfare Department handles cases of domestic violence and child abuse. The Hospital Authority is in charge of tackling children's health issues.
'The absence of a dedicated commission to advocate children's rights makes a mockery of Hong Kong's reputation as an international city.'
Dr Cheung, a member of the Civic Party which supported the motion, said children's active participation in their own affairs is the key to improving their well-being.
'All the policies affecting children's well-being are formulated by adults. Instead of turning a deaf ear to children's views, we should listen to them and involve them in the policy-making process,' he said.
Dr Cheung dispelled the myth that children preferred to play rather than take part in meaningful activities.
'I've attended several meetings hosted by Kids' Dream. They're smart and were keen to tell me what they want. The setting up of a children's commission can empower our future leaders,' he said.
Apart from their determination to set up a children's commission, the activists are conducting research on problems faced by Hong Kong youth. Form Five student Mickey Yip is in charge of research on child poverty. Mickey says poverty is a big problem among immigrants and single-parent families.
'I visited several poor families in Sham Shui Po with other members of Kids' Dream,' said the 17-year-old student from Chuen Yuen College.
'The plight of one girl made me very sad. The primary pupil poured water into a bottle of cough syrup to dilute it so that she could take it for a few more days.
'By listening to poor children, I hope I can come up with solutions to ease their problems.'