Red tape needs to be cut on Hong Kong youth issues
A grasp of what young people care and think about is not much in evidence among government departments and political parties, and officials appear to have lost touch
If Hong Kong tycoons have criticism of the government, they generally find it politic to keep it to themselves. This adds value to the reflections of Lau Ming-wai, scion of property tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung, on his time as chairman of the soon-to-be defunct Commission on Youth: “Most youth issues are interdepartmental,” he said, “[but] those familiar with the government know it is not the best at cross-departmental collaboration or cooperation.” Coming from Lau, that does not flatter the government elite, given that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has admitted her administration’s biggest challenge is to “connect with young people”.
In an interview with the Post, Lau hit out at red tape among government agencies, saying there was “close to zero” cross-bureau collaboration on resolving problems facing young people. It was worrying criticism from a temporary “insider” with experience of the real world outside the civil service.
That said, Lau still maintains high hopes for the new Youth Development Commission, to be chaired by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, adding that the calibre of applicants to join it was higher than expected.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying chose the young tycoon to lead the youth advisory body after the 2014 Occupy movement. Lam’s election campaign promise to set up the youth development body was partly inspired by Lau.
The city cannot afford to have it tripped up by bureaucratic red tape. There is a growing disconnect between the government and young Hongkongers. This issue could increasingly become a political problem for the city. A grasp of what young people care and think about is not much in evidence among government departments and political parties, and officials appear to have lost touch with youth, particularly at the grass-roots level. To her credit Lam seems to understand the importance of working with them. As Lau says it is very time-consuming and labour intensive to develop youngsters and engage them in public policy debate. His frustration with red tape and bureaucracy is a timely warning to the government that it needs to be seen to pay more than lip service to youth issues.