Many Hong Kong students pessimistic about future, even though they are willing to make city better

Survey respondents point to issues like ineffective communication with the government, uneven distribution of resources and social instability

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 October, 2016, 7:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 October, 2016, 10:52pm

Six out of 10 youngsters think Hong Kong’s future will be worse by 2030, even though most are willing to make the city a better place, according to a survey.

The world’s largest student organisation, AIESEC, polled 1,993 locals aged between 16 and 30 in August and last month to find out their views on the most serious challenges the city would face in the coming decade, what opportunities they should grasp and what qualities Hong Kong’s next leader should have. The vast bulk of those polled were students.

One in three young adults dissatisfied with Hong Kong society: survey

The survey asked respondents whether they thought the city would be better or worse by 2030. A total of 58 per cent said it would be worse, while 32 per cent said it would be better. The rest said there would be no change.

However, 71 per cent said they were willing to make an effort to improve Hong Kong.

“I find it very, very worrying that even though a lot of people are actually willing to foster a better Hong Kong, they [believe] the city will not be better [in the future],” organisation chairman Henry Lee Cheuk-hei said.

Lee said the finding raised two possibilities. “It either means that young people are underestimating themselves or that the general environment in Hong Kong does not allow them to achieve what they want to do,” he said.

Lau Ming-wai, the government’s top adviser on youth affairs who was present at AIESEC’s forum on Monday, said the results were not surprising.

“It is the general mood and trend that young people are pessimistic and don’t see a future for Hong Kong. Let’s have no doubts about that,” Lau said.

The source of Hong Kong youth’s frustration

When asked about the root cause of such pessimism among young people, Lau said there was no point in looking for one.

“Why is Hong Kong like this? I honestly don’t know. You can always say it’s the politics, it’s China, democracy, it’s land. You know what, you can solve all that and we will still have problems,” he said.

Lau, chairman of the Commission on Youth, encouraged young people to break through the pessimism and tackle small problems, one at a time, with an “unreasonably optimistic” attitude.

Over 55 per cent expressed concern over ineffective communication with the government, while an ageing population, uneven distribution of resources and social instability were ranked as the top three most pressing challenges that young people thought should be dealt with in the next decade.

The respondents said the city’s next leader should be globally insightful, responsible and highly transparent.

Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Polytechnic University, said it was hard for young people to find hope in the current circumstances.

“Whether it’s finding a decent job or a home, a lot of these things seem out of reach for Hongkongers, not just young people,” Chung said.