It's the year 2015, and things have gone horribly wrong in Hong Kong. Gross domestic product has plunged by 40 per cent in just three years, the unemployment rate has soared to 30 per cent and the division between the haves and the have-nots is causing social unrest. Widespread grudges and grievances have led to the birth of the Hong Kong Communist Party, which boasts support from at least half of the population. With strong backing from the people, the party stirs up protests and riots across the city, storms media offices and commercial buildings and demands the removal of an unpopular chief executive. The situation has become so serious that the national government has threatened to intervene militarily. The People's Liberation Army is on high alert. Realising belatedly that Hong Kong is in complete mayhem, the government proposes remedial measures at an emergency meeting. Participants at the meeting, including representatives of foreign corporations, the middle class and young people, have to reach a consensus before the proposal is tabled to the Communist party. 'We as the government have done a lot. We hope Hong Kong will be a stable and harmonious society,' says an official after presenting the measures. The package includes terms of ceasefire with the Communist party and an apology from the chief executive over alleged mismanagement as moves to stabilise the economy, including proposals to issue government bonds and the introduction of a minimum wage. After grilling presenters and discussing the situation among themselves, the participants decide to offer the government a way out and vote for the proposal with a show of hands. At that moment Joyce Chin Yan-yan, a 15-year-old studying at St Mary's Canossian College, who attended the Hong Kong Youth Summit at the University of Hong Kong last week, heaved a sigh of relief. For it was participants at the summit who gave the nod to the proposal that she and her teammates had come up with in response to the imaginary scenario. Fortunately, Hong Kong's descent into political chaos in 2015 was just a fiction designed for debate. Joyce was one of more than 120 Form Four and Six students who took part in the summit where, in addition to dealing with the crisis, they also discussed real social and economic issues that had hit headlines over the past decade. The annual event is organised by the Hong Kong Outstanding Students' Association, a non-profit-making group that encourages social awareness among young people. Joyce said she had made a lot of friends at the conference and learnt a great deal as she prepared for the proposal. 'It is important to consider an issue from different points of view. From now on I'll try to figure out the government's stance when a social or economic issue comes up,' she said. Students were divided into 10 groups, each designated with a particular identity, ranging from being members of major corporations and professions to low-income families and small and medium-sized enterprises. Participants, in the guise of their new identities, were teamed up in different commissions to tackle issues that even the government had failed to resolve, including education, the goods and services tax, welfare policy and the public health system. Joyce's group was given the task of devising a resolution for the made-up crisis situation. Tang Tak-shing, a Form Six student from Clemanti Secondary School who tried to persuade his fellow participants of the importance of having an anti-competition law, said he found the experience valuable. 'I've developed an interest in political and economic issues, realised the importance of balancing different views and interests in order to reach a compromise and picked up a few skills to do so,' he said. The conference consisted of four sessions. Participants met on Saturdays since late last month to work on proposals on topics assigned to them, which were presented in the final session. Prominent speakers were invited, including legislator and senior counsel Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and executive councillor Leong Che-hung. Participants also interviewed representatives of various sectors to develop a better understanding of issues they had to deal with. Cassandra Kwok Wing-shuen, a Form Four student from Marymount Secondary School, was one of three representatives lobbying for support for measures to improve labour and employment policies. Her team was bombarded with questions from other students who challenged their proposal. What were the costs of the minimum wage? What did they mean by maximum working hours? How should Hong Kong meet the threat presented by mainland workers? 'I was a bit nervous when so many people asked questions and was a little disappointed when our proposal was vetoed,' Cassandra said. 'But this is not important. In the end it is the process that matters.' Their research might not all have been thorough enough and their presentations may not have been the most articulate, but students definitely treasured the experience, turning out in formal attire and spending long hours in discussion and enthusiastic question-and-answer sessions. Chan Kin-kun, a 15-year-old studying at Diocesan Boys' School, said he was grateful to the Outstanding Students' Association for organising the event. 'I've taken part in other activities run by the organisation, such as being a volunteer, which are designed to groom young leaders,' he said. 'It's important for young people to broaden their perspectives and be alert to current affairs. 'The youth summit is a formal occasion, which shows youngsters in Hong Kong are willing to take up responsibilities.' Angela Ho Hoi-woon, 17, one of the students organising the event and who studies at Maryknoll Convent School, said she found it difficult to invite famous speakers. 'We wanted to invite [education minister] Arthur Li Kwok-cheung.' Adjustment was also needed to work with peers from different schools who had different working styles, Angela said, while juggling the sheer amount of preparation and school work was not easy. 'It was hard work,' she said. 'We had to do everything by ourselves - games, video programmes, information packs, etc.' For Jackie Chu Kin-shing, 18, a Form Six student from New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Yuen Long District Secondary School, the conference offered him an opportunity to sharpen his communication skills and acquire debating and presentation techniques. 'We debated like mad in the first three sessions as we prepared for the proposal,' he said, adding that he had made friends with people from other schools and from different backgrounds. Legislative Council president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who last week addressed the conference in her capacity as a member of the 10th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, encouraged students to contemplate the future of Hong Kong in relation to the mainland. 'We can't hide within Hong Kong, which is tiny. Hong Kong has always been an outward-looking economy. We must think about the danger before it arrives,' she said. Mrs Fan believed a bright future lay ahead of Hong Kong. 'We must not marginalise ourselves. We must treasure ourselves and work hard to realise our dreams,' she said.