HK government and Beijing must now listen to young people

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 9:43pm

I am very struck by the parallels between America in the 1960s and Hong Kong today.

The Democratic Party’s presidential nominating convention in Chicago in 1968 was beset by terrible violence as police and young anti-Vietnam-war (in fact anti-everything) demonstrators clashed in the streets.

This followed the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and rioting in Los Angeles and other cities by black Americans who were fed up with their low status in American society.

The young people, black and white, in 1960s America were fed up with the compromises, patience and general reasonableness shown by their parents’ generation in the face of the many injustices evident across American society.

So it is with the younger generation in Hong Kong. They don’t want to be told what to do by their elders and betters (a difficult point for their elders to accept in Chinese culture). Many youngsters feel contempt for the Hong Kong government and dislike and distrust the government in Beijing.

These frustrations are compounded by the many livelihood issues which make it difficult for young people to make a decent living and acquire a roof over their head.

Many in Hong Kong might reject the parallels between today’s Hong Kong and 1960s America, perhaps due to the different cultural contexts. But I think this would be a foolish thing to do. The common factor is youthful rage.

I am not Chinese but it strikes me, as a long-time sympathetic observer, that the Hong Kong government and the authorities in Beijing have failed to comprehend the magnitude of the change in the youth of Hong Kong.

“How can fellow Chinese react so negatively to China (the “mother” country) or events in Hong Kong; surely we are all Chinese” is perhaps the way the authorities view these trends. But the truth appears to be otherwise and many young people feel as strongly about these matters as the young Americans felt about issues in the US on the streets of Chicago in 1968.

If the authorities in Hong Kong and China don’t understand and respond to this change and start to listen to the youngsters, we are all in for dark days ahead.

As the great Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, who died in Paris in 1971 aged 27 once sang: “We want the world and we want it ... Now!”

Nicholas Rogers, Mid-Levels