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Hong Kong youth

Youth advisory body may bridge the generational divide

The new Youth Development Commission is an opportunity to break with the past and make a change for our city’s youth through creative and innovative thinking

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2018, 1:28am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2018, 1:28am

Caring about the needs of Hong Kong’s young people is one of the stated priorities of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. An important part of its strategy is a high-level advisory body to enable youth participation in the policymaking process through discussion and debate. Its launch last week, under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and including among its 34 appointed members three who put themselves forward, moves a step beyond previous government efforts. Being new, it is an opportunity to break with the past and push to make a change for our city’s youth through creative and innovative thinking.

The Youth Development Commission replaces the 28-year-old Commission on Youth, which has struggled against a rising tide of dissatisfaction from young people. Among the concerns of under-30s are unaffordable housing, job mobility and stress.

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The 2014 Occupy protests, spearheaded by students, highlighted the worries and prompted authorities to look for better ways of ensuring young voices were heard. Lam has put great political capital in the commission, seeing it as an important element of government efforts to ensure better outcomes for young people.

Critics of the old commission saw it as little more than a talk shop. Its last chairman, Lau Ming-wai, said red tape caused by “close to zero” collaboration between government agencies was stymying efforts to resolve the problems of young people. As vice-chairman of its replacement, he and other members face the same challenge, but with Cheung at the helm and Lam having promised change, it has more clout.

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The membership of the new body is slightly more representative of our city’s youth, being helped by a pilot scheme that enabled citizens to put themselves forward; among the three of 503 successful applicants is an 18-year-old university student, who has become the government’s youngest adviser.

The best government policies come from engaging citizens in the decisions that affect them and that is what the new commission aims to achieve. It faces considerable challenges, but it is a move in the right direction. It is to be hoped it can bridge the generational divide and inject new thinking into policymaking.