How the government can best channel the energies of Hong Kong’s restless youth

Tik Chi-yuen says young people need to be nurtured, not lectured, and the government should set up a Youth Department and a dedicated innovation committee to help guide them

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 10:53am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 4:19pm

When people are marginalised, or treated as unimportant, they will usually either become hostile to such action or become antisocial. Some of our local youths, including gifted student leaders, have done exactly that to express their dissatisfaction, manifesting itself most prominently in last year’s Umbrella Movement.

Young people are sources of creativity and innovation, though it’s true they can also be impatient and narrow-minded. When capable young people are given influential positions, their dynamism and potential can be fully realised to help society progress. The government is certainly aware of this; witness its appointment of 33-year-old Ronald Chan Ngok-pang, the youngest undersecretary since the handover, to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau.

READ MORE: Set up a youth council with real powers, say Hong Kong youngsters

The appointment reflects an open-minded approach to power-sharing but needs to be followed up with similar action.

How could more talented youth be engaged to better understand governance and offer constructive proposals? Could the voice of the young generation be officially recorded and used for reference in policy formulation?

Young people are sources of creativity and innovation, though it’s true they can also be impatient and narrow-minded

It is obvious that the government has to enhance the foundations to nurture more political talent, so that more people are capable of acting rationally, taking on responsibility and working towards a sustainable Hong Kong.

We therefore recommend that the government consider setting up a powerful Youth Department, under the direction of the chief secretary, to effectively coordinate all youth-related policies and focus on training young political elite. It could develop a database of online youth groups with a view to seeking their input, in order to get to know them, their thoughts and ideas.

At the grass-roots level, a Youth Department could speed up the building of youth hostels, to deal with the urgent demand for single-person housing for the younger generation. It could also centralise all work from various departments into one transparent hierarchy. Moreover, officials could simplify administrative procedures.

READ MORE: Ronald Chan, 33, made Hong Kong’s youngest undersecretary after early career boost from Regina Ip

At the community level, a Youth Department could invite students to become advisory members of district community centres. It could encourage them to speak up and help with social facilities and services, simultaneously strengthening their sense of belonging and ownership in their districts.

At the central level, the department ought to invite at least 5 per cent of young people aged between 18 and 35 to join not just the Commission of Youth, but all government advisory committees. The committees could arrange flexible meeting times and venues, to cater to young members.

As for the establishment of a Innovation and Technology Bureau, we would like to see a committee of youth innovation and technology set up, composed of IT professionals and young entrepreneurs. It could provide help and training to young starters, including , for example, with financial , scientific and IT equipment and consultancy services.

READ MORE: After years of delay, Hong Kong’s new Innovation and Technology Bureau urged to come up with blueprint in next six months

Since IT equipment and facilities are somewhat costly, in order to encourage more young entrepreneurs to explore pioneering designs and ideas, a HK$300 million fund should be created. The committee could then guide young innovators to fulfil their goals, by providing them with the necessary expertise.

Youths are known for their impatience and fire, for sure. Nevertheless, if they have mentors who can enlarge their future opportunities, they could be a very important driving force of passion and energy to move this cosmopolitan city forward.

Tik Chi-yuen is convenor of the Third Side