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  • Apr 24, 2014
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What would get your vote?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2012, 12:00am
 

Introduction

Issues like last year's deadly inferno on Fa Yuen Street, mainland mothers putting stress on local maternity services and ambiguous grading for liberal studies have led to most teenagers feeling that the current government has let them down. That's the findings of a recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Education and Roundtable.

The public wants Hong Kong's next leader to address the most pressing, deeply-rooted problems in society. Yet both front runners in the upcoming chief executive election - Leung Chun-ying and Henry Tang Ying-yen - are embroiled in scandals that have raised serious doubts about their credibility and competence.

Although most teenagers will not have a say in this election, their voices should not be ignored. Here Young Post summarises student polls conducted by several organisations last month. We also asked our junior reporters about the qualities they look for in a chief executive and the four social issues they want the next administration to tackle.

Education

More than half of teenagers think the frequent education reforms are confusing, according to a survey carried out by the Caritas Kowloon Community Centre last year. Students worry whether they can succeed in subjects like liberal studies and art in the new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) which has a broad syllabus, vague guidelines and an inconsistent grading scheme. Intense exam revision and strenuous school-based assessments have increased students' heavy workload.

Implementation of the controversial national education subject and a shortage of international school places adds to the list of flaws in the education system.

Erica Kwan, 15, from St Paul's Convent School, thinks many teachers and students are still trying to grasp the requirements of liberal studies. She wants the exam authorities to draw up clearer grading guidelines so students will not be kept in the dark and teachers can mark papers fairly.

'Marking liberal studies can be a highly subjective matter,' Erica says. 'It is a challenge for teachers to adopt a neutral stance.'

Diocesan Girls' School student Vanessa Wong, 16, says the workload from school-based assessments accounts for a significant percentage of marks in the HKDSE and adds a burden to revision schedules. She wants to see the amount and weight of school-based projects reduced.

Candace Kwan, 18, from St Paul's Convent School, thinks university places for secondary school students are lacking. She says that creating more places could alleviate the pressure and provide more human resources to help the city develop as a knowledge-based economy.

Erica thinks the government should also pay more attention to underprivileged children and ensure that they receive quality education. Officials should increase subsidies for school materials and computers to assist their upward mobility.

Melody Cheung, 16, from St Paul's Secondary School, says the national education syllabus needs more thought. It should include controversial issues such as the June 4 crackdown, instead of simply brainwashing students and promoting patriotism.

Environment

As the city's population continues to soar, the government is seeking to reclaim 25 more sites on the waterfront for housing. Environmentalists and residents fear the development will damage the coastline, and worsen air pollution and traffic.

The city also faces problems such as increasing volumes of solid waste, worsening water pollution and an urban heat island effect.

Melody Cheung thinks the government should impose a rubbish levy to reduce the pressure on three landfills that will be full by 2015. Authorities could charge citizens for dumping household and electronic waste. 'Hong Kong should not lag behind other countries like Singapore and Taiwan,' she says.

Elise Choi, 16, from Sai Kung Sung Tsun Catholic School, recommends expanding the current recycling system to include glass and electronic waste. The government should also build incinerators.

Candace says there is much the government could do to improve air quality, but not enough is done to promote renewable energy technologies like solar panels.

'We should slowly lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and focus more on renewable energy,' Candace says.

The next chief executive should put a hold on further land reclamation, says Vanessa. Reclamation causes serious water pollution and damages the marine ecosystem. Instead, she suggests the government should revitalise old areas.

Housing

An ineffective housing policy has fostered today's so-called 'real estate hegemony', according to 80 per cent of the young adults polled by the Hong Kong Institute of Education and Roundtable. Soaring property prices, long waiting times for public housing and decreasing quality of life are stoking growing discontent among Hong Kong's middle class.

Heung To Middle School student Simon Leung, 18, says steep property prices have forced many citizens to move into subdivided flats or cage homes. The housing units have repeatedly been linked to fatal fires, including last year's fire on Fa Yuen Street that left nine dead.

Emma Tsoi, 15, from Diocesan Girls' School, agrees. Though some renters are young people wanting to move away from home and single people looking to cut down on their commute, most come from the sandwich class, Emma says.

'The sandwich class does not qualify for public housing and transport subsidies, yet cannot afford private flats,' Emma says. 'They are trying to make ends meet by renting cheap, tiny flats.'

Wan Shuk-kwan, 16, of CCC Kei Yuen College, thinks the chief executive should abandon the 'positive non-interventionist' economic policy. Controlling real estate prices and cutting down the waiting time for public housing should be high on the government's agenda.

Simon hopes the next government could increase public housing in the long run and develop units for singles and small families.

'Officials could lower the threshold for the sandwich class to apply for public flats, while setting a higher rent,' Simon suggests.

Personal qualities

In the wake of the illegal underground palace fiasco, two-thirds of respondents to a South China Morning Post poll last month thought Henry Tang should quit the race for the city's top job.

Leung leads the way in another survey conducted by the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association. One-third of the 1,400 young people polled, aged 12 to 21, supported Leung. Tang won only 7 per cent of the respondents' support.

The respondents valued Leung's leadership qualities such as confidence, governing vision, passion, trustworthiness and understanding of public opinion. Meanwhile, they thought Tang lacked integrity, responsibility, crisis management skills and the ability to carry out policies.

Candace thinks the public needs a leader worthy of their trust. A relatively clean track record, reaction capacity and transparency are equally important.

Hong Kong needs 'someone who understands that being in the public eye means being more careful with his actions, especially actions that are supposedly private as they can easily become public', Candace says.

'To err is human, and the general public is forgiving - but only if you own up quickly and personally.'

She adds that a sincere apology, proposed solutions and actually taking action could be enough to stop a potential scandal in its tracks.

As the city's leader, the candidate should be 'brave enough to face the music' and shoulder the consequences of his actions, says Open University student Samantha Lau, 19.

'A man who just boasts about his achievements but conceals his defects is for sure not the desired chief executive in most people's eyes,' Samantha says.

Universal suffrage

Although our elections are among the cleanest in the region, we still have no right to vote for our chief executive. This is left to an election committee of 1,200 largely pro-Beijing business and political leaders. The two previous chief executives were also hand-picked by Beijing.

The central government decided the 2012 election could not be held by universal suffrage. Now the question is whether Beijing will stall again for the 2017 vote.

Nearly two thirds of young adults are dissatisfied with the state of democratic development, according to the same survey by the Hong Kong Institute of Education and Roundtable.

Melody wants the next leader to firmly promise that universal suffrage will be introduced in 2017 and 2020 because every citizen should be involved in the decision-making process.

Vanessa says a democratically elected leader would strengthen interaction between the government and citizens and help promote social progress.

She adds that many international organisations, including the United Nations, campaign for universal suffrage because democracy is considered a universal human right.

'Less-developed countries like Zimbabwe and Bhutan have already achieved universal suffrage,' Vanessa says. 'Yet our famous and well-developed city is not keeping up.'

Vote

On March 21 - four days before the real chief executive election - the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association (BGCA) and the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme will co-organise a simulated election for teenagers. Young people aged 12 to 21 can cast their vote at BGCA's 24 service centres and 112 secondary schools. Results will be announced the following day.

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