Many people were shocked and surprised last year by the intensity of protests led by villagers and young activists against the high-speed railway to Guangzhou. Although long accustomed to protests in Hong Kong, most of us had no idea that the opposition to an infrastructure project would herald a new wave of political activism, especially among young people. Many fretted about the new type of protests being more radical and violent. Now a group of young activists are ready to prove the naysayers wrong. Having cut their teeth on the original high-speed rail protest, four of them are preparing to run in the November district council elections. They share a common and widespread concern that Hong Kong's quality of life is being compromised by excessive development. They also believe there is an unhealthy relationship between big developers and the government. Whether you agree with them or not, they are showing care and concern about our city. They are exercising a civic consciousness. The government has long complained there is not enough political talent in Hong Kong. Its solution was to create an extra layer of governance with the controversial political appointee system. It's a sorry imitation of Singapore, which tries to co-opt the best and the brightest for government when they are still young. Hong Kong is a very different city. Our free and noisy culture makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the government to monopolise political talent. Instead, young people are doing it themselves by moving from protest to the ballot. They should be applauded for trying to improve the system from within, rather than just banging their fists against it from the outside.