When did Hong Kong’s youth lose their basic humanity?

Yonden Lhatoo is appalled by the lack of empathy for others among the city’s university students, as illustrated by the vile attack on the No 2 education official over her son’s suicide

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 12:48pm

What happened to Hong Kong’s youth? Age, naivety, idealism, rebelliousness or other standard factors aside, how did they end up losing that most basic and essential value – empathy for a fellow human being?

I have devoted much of this column space in the past to trying to understand and explain what is bothering our unhappy young people, where they are coming from, and what drives them to some of the drastic behaviour – most of it politically influenced – we have seen these last few years.

But try as I might, I can think of no justification for the vile conduct of the youngsters who put up a message, 12 sheets of A4 paper long, on the so-called “democracy wall” of notice boards at the Education University campus, attacking the city’s No 2 education official.

The taunting message congratulated Undersecretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin for the loss of her 25-year-old son, who jumped to his death from a residential tower in Yau Ma Tei.

“The remarks are entirely disrespectful, against the moral values of society and cold-blooded,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam condemns ‘callous’ campus taunts after suicide of top official’s son

“The whole community is shocked, grieved and enraged by the appearance of such remarks in a tertiary institution in Hong Kong ... I deeply regret and condemn such behaviour.”

How did Choi earn so much hatred? Well, she’s distrusted by opposition politicians and the youngsters they influence because of her pro-Beijing credentials – they’re convinced she will spearhead the “brainwashing” of pupils through national education in the school curriculum.

Apparently, in the world that our city’s Facebook generation of social justice warriors live in, that is grounds for despicable abuse against a mother grieving for her child. And in their great struggle for human and other rights, the abuse must also be defended.

The university’s student union not only failed to condemn those who subjected Choi to such a vicious and cowardly attack, but made it all about freedom of speech, even warning authorities not to sow “white terror” by curtailing it.

Hong Kong student leaders take defiant stand on poster taunting education official over son’s death

You know there’s a difference between exercising freedom of speech and abusing it, right, children? Abusing it and then not giving a hoot about the hurt it causes someone else, because in your alternative world it’s your fundamental right to be abusive, smacks of delusional privilege and begs for a smack across your entitled face.

These people are the future of our city? Not only that, they’re being trained as teachers to guide the generation after them?

This is not about fundamental rights; it’s about basic humanity. Which brings me to the question, when and how did an entire section of Hong Kong’s youth lose it? What happened?

Some might say people like Civic Passion lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai happened.

Commenting on recent suicides at the start of the new academic year, Cheng took a nasty swipe at Choi in a Facebook post that is probably unparalleled in crassness and callousness in Hong Kong’s political history.

“Officials in the Education Bureau, today you’ve finally understood the brutality of the education system when karma fell on you,” he wrote. “Don’t blame the crowd for being insensitive, because this karma is what you planted by yourselves.”

Here’s the thing about the Buddhist concept of cause and effect that the honourable member cited: it’s non-linear, and, as the saying goes, karma’s a (insert word that rhymes with witch), which means it will come back to bite you in the behind.

Shame on the lot of you and good luck when you find yourselves in dire need of a little empathy yourself one day. Oh, you’ll need it.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post