Post-1980s generation carries on the fight for honest government

I support the spirit of the post-1980s generation. In the early 1980s, there was a group of us, the Hong Kong Observers, about the same age as these young people now, who got together and did what was considered radical at the time. We dared to question government policies and wrote about what we considered unjust. Our activities were branded as naive, not constructive and even subversive. Members were harassed. Files were kept on us by a secret government unit called the Standing Committee on Pressure Groups. One of us was supposedly a KGB spy.

One of our executive councillors is a former Hong Kong 'observer', who, as a young surveyor, attended meetings and contributed his ideas. He may be in the running for election as the next chief executive. Former members include university professors, distinguished authors, successful businessmen and other professionals. One heads a well-known think tank. By any standard, they are responsible members of this community. Unfortunately, some of us are getting on and we often take what is unfair and unjust as normal.

Because of these post-1980s young people, we now understand more about the express rail link. We know how a lot of our money will be used to finance the most expensive (per-kilometre) rail line ever. And we now realise that it is not as fast as its name implies. We are reminded that past projects such as Disneyland, Cyberport, HarbourFest and West Kowloon have not always been in the best interests of the Hong Kong public.

We were shown the excessive haste and spin to rush the funding application through. We were told building the express rail was as essential as the new airport at Chek Lap Kok in the 1980s, but were not told how that was delayed for 18 months because of Beijing's concern over costs and excessive transfer of benefits to British businesses. If the express rail is a failure, will Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen be around to be held accountable?

Because of these young people we have started to have doubts about the very structure of our government. We question the functional constituencies. If the process to decide how to spend our money is seen as unfair, because some of us have more voting rights than others, can we blame people for using all means to speak out? Rather than question their values, the government should question whether the root cause of discontent has much to do with its own behaviour.

The vote has been forced through and Pandora's box has been opened. There is deep division within the community, which our chief executive was told by his Beijing masters in no uncertain terms to improve. It will be difficult for him to spin his way out of this one because he cannot co-opt a whole generation. The only hope for us, and the only option left for him, is to do what is fair and just.


In 20 years, our Hong Kong Observers' generation will be gone. The future belongs to these young people. And who knows, one of them may even be the future chief executive of Hong Kong.

Anthony Ng Sung-man, The Peak