Drug abusers deserve chance

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 June, 2009, 12:00am

A proposal to locate a residential rehabilitation school for young drug abusers in Mui Wo has divided the community.

In extraordinary scenes at a public meeting, some residents abused students from the school, while other residents openly demonstrated their compassion.

The students are in need of premises to help them build a good future and become upstanding members of society. They deserve sympathy and support. But Mui Wo residents have some justification for feeling their views have not received enough attention.

The row centres on the future of the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School, closed two years ago against local opposition because of falling enrolments.

Christian Zheng Sheng College, which runs the drug rehabilitation school, first applied in 2006 to take over the premises to relieve overcrowding at its present site.

Many Mui Wo residents still harbour a sense of injustice at the loss of the secondary school and are affronted at the suggestion that it should now be used to house drug abusers.

Officials should have been aware of this and consulted the residents earlier.

The 'not in my backyard' syndrome cannot, however, be allowed to prevail.

Mui Wo is far from the only community to reject activities seen as conveying negative perceptions unhelpful to property values and development. Sadly, no other locality is extending a welcoming hand to the college.

The college is helping students turn their lives around. They deserve a fair second chance of being accepted into the community. Because they represent a growing youth drug problem, it is in the best interests of the community that they get it.

It is not too late for the government to try to bring the two sides together.

This is an edited version of the editorial which appeared in yesterday's South China Morning Post