We were promised the future; instead, we see it slipping away

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 March, 2010, 12:00am

The 'post-1980s generation' has become a trendy term in Hong Kong. When used in a general sense to refer to people who were born in the 1980s, it includes me.

People's impressions of us vary from being disgruntled to radical. Some think we are self-centred, and some people, including some government officials, simply don't take us seriously. While not all of these descriptions are untrue, some of them should be taken with a pinch of salt.

It is true that our generation is disgruntled. We grew up during the economic boom. Equipped with good infrastructure and located right next to China, Hong Kong served as the entrepot between China and the West. We were taught that hard work would guarantee us a good living. So we powered through our education and kept quiet on a lot of social issues.

Meanwhile, China was opening up and there was an influx of talented young people competing with us for jobs. The loss of Hong Kong's uniqueness, coupled with the Asian financial crisis and the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, turned the land of opportunities into the land of uncertainties. We are better educated than our parents' generation but the median wage of university graduates has decreased. Our discontent is also fuelled by a government that fails to lead, which constantly ignores the needs of average citizens and focuses only on the interests of big corporations.

While some of us choose to improve our competitiveness by, for example, studying abroad, some also choose to take a more active role in society. We are very fortunate that we never experienced any social unrest or oppression as we grew up. When the Tiananmen protests happened, we were still too young. Therefore we have become more outspoken than our parents. We express our views on blogs and Facebook, and even take part in demonstrations. However, it does not make us 'radicals' just because we criticise the government - most of the demonstrations in Hong Kong are very peaceful. We only hope to be taken seriously and to influence policy-making.

Are we interested only in ourselves? What motivates us to take to the streets is the social injustice we witness every day. Although Hong Kong's Gini coefficient [a measure of wealth inequality] is constantly rising, the government has chosen to invest huge sums of money in the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link that may or may not benefit Hong Kong people. Also, the government guaranteed that we would have universal suffrage but has yet to come up with a road map.

So, we ask for the right to elect a chief executive who can truly represent Hong Kong, and urge the government to tackle the growing disparity between rich and poor. These are issues that concern not only us, but society as a whole.

The post-1980s generation represents young people who are worried about society. Chinese say where there's danger, there's opportunity. We are ready to take action to improve our future.

Grace Wong, North Point