Hong Kong’s youth must stop demonising China to have a brighter future
Nixie Lam says prejudice towards mainland China and turning a blind eye to its phenomenal growth are self-defeating for the younger generation in Hong Kong, when they can gain so much from the special connection
It’s fair to say the “Hong Kong identity crisis” arises from its youth finding themselves in a rather tough situation. Many have lost direction, their life goals seemingly too far away to reach. Fear of losing control over their future has caused them to panic, and seek a solution in self-determination or even independence.
The world has witnessed the rapid development of China in the past decades, and many claim they do not understand why Hong Kong youngsters are choosing to simply turn a blind eye to these achievements.
I’ve spoken to many youngsters in the city, and a lot of them say the challenges they face do not relate simply to issues such as housing prices or which university they get into, but to the overwhelming pressure of expectations.
Being in Hong Kong, you are naturally signed up to live with two sets of very different – even polarised – expectations.
Take working holidays, for instance. These are similar to a gap year, where young people can take a break from studies to gain experience, learn to be more independent, and increase their international exposure.
However, many complain of facing unexpected challenges from parents, and even recruiters, upon their return, as this outward move is often interpreted as irresponsible, with society expecting graduating students to start earning for the family right away.
The post-90s generation and millennials were born in an era when “me-time” had centre stage, very different from any previous generation in Hong Kong. They grew up with the cyber world existing parallel to the real world; the cyber environment creates a borderless universe where daily comparisons and self-expression are highly valued, and opinions are shared online in a split second.
There are no boundaries to expression, no matter how peculiar. No wonder it is hard for them to accept reality sometimes.
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A good example is disqualified legislators Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang calling China “Chee-na” during their oath-taking last year. The word had been around and widely used in the cyber world for at least two years, along with other rather humiliating words or phases.
Yau and Leung did not expect such a backlash from society, and could not understand why people were offended.
Technology has created a larger-than-ever generation gap, and this has changed the entire ecology of how traditional society works.
As young people in Hong Kong, we are held responsible for the city’s future well-being. We are the very people who created this oriental wonder, we are willing to work hard to overcome difficult times, we are united and are always flexible in solving problems, we are inclusive and willing to cooperate with different people no matter what nation, race or sex they belong to.
We should ask ourselves if we know where the opportunities for the city really lie. We must not fall prey to the separatist theory of protecting ourselves and shutting down connections. With China’s rapid development, we are not that different any more.
We share the same language and culture, and we should look at the bigger picture for opportunities to evolve together. When Beijing has announced its “new era” approach at the 19th party congress, and its determination to uphold “one country, two systems”, it is time for us to stop demonising mainland China and focus on what is in the best interests of Hong Kong and its people. We are the best connectors in the region and we always will be. With the visionary development plan of the Greater Bay Area set to take off, we should work together and fight for what is in our best interest.
I often hear the phrase, “Those born in uncertain times carry certain responsibilities”. During Occupy Central, I would often see youngsters wearing T-shirts featuring this statement. Yes, we should all have a sense of responsibility towards Hong Kong. And that sense of responsibility involves giving up prejudice and doing our bit for the good of Hong Kong.
Nixie Lam is an elected member of Tsuen Wan District Council and vice-president of the Young DAB. She was the Hong Kong representative panellist at the first Young Observers Roundtable discussion at the Boao Forum for Asia 2014