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Hong Kong youth

Handpicked by the government, can Hong Kong youth commission members understand ‘suffering of the grass-roots’?

A youth concern group has slammed the make-up of a new advisory body on youth policies, saying it has mostly pro-establishment types and no one ‘critical of the authorities’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 10:43pm

A youth concern group has slammed the make-up of a new government-appointed advisory body on youth policies, saying it did not include youngsters who are “more critical of the authorities” and that those in the age group should have been allowed to vote for their own representatives.

“Would any of the members understand the sufferings of grass-roots youngsters and speak for them? Why are the young people who are more critical of the authorities not included in the commission?” Naomi Ho Sze-wai, a founding member of the group Youth Policy Advocators asked.

Ho said she was “very disappointed” with the new Youth Development Commission, which has 34 non-official members and eight ex officio members, adding: “We found that some 70 per cent of its members are pro-establishment or government-friendly, and only one is aged below 24.”

In Hong Kong, those aged 15 to 24 have been taken as the target population in planning services for youths, which is also the definition adopted by the United Nations, according to the Statistics and Census Department.

“The first priority for the commission is to democratise its membership, lower the age limit for members, and in a longer term, to substantially empower itself.”

The group last month conducted an online poll of 456 people aged below 35 on their hopes for the new commission. Most respondents hoped the body would speak up for them and have real power.

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The new body, which replaces the 28-year-old Commission on Youth, was one of the youth initiatives promised by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her election manifesto last year as well as in her maiden policy address in October.

It is chaired by 67-year-old Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, with Lau, the 37-year-old scion of a property tycoon, as deputy. Among the non-official members, 14 were former members of the previous commission, while more than half are aged 35 or below.

Three non-official members were appointed through the Pilot Member Self-recommendation Scheme for Youth: surgeon Chan Po-ling, one of the first cohort awardees of the government’s Scholarship for Excellence Scheme, Sam Ng Sum-chun, a professional athlete in the city’s dance sports elite team, and University of Science and Technology undergraduate Alex Cheng Hong-wun.

The scheme was looking for 11 Hongkongers aged between 18 and 35 to join five policy committees including the youth commission.

The survey found that 90 per cent of respondents wanted commission members admitted through the self-recommendation scheme to be elected by young people, rather than be selected by a group led by the secretary for home affairs.

These elected members should take up 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the 34 non-official posts – or 13 to 20 seats – according to 57 per cent of those surveyed.

Separately, Lau Ming-wai, deputy chairman of the commission and former chief of the defunct panel, said the membership was “almost perfect” because of its diversity. An ideal member should be someone “not too radical” and could get along with others while sticking with one’s beliefs, Lau told a radio programme on Thursday morning.

The Chief Secretary’s Office has not replied to the Post’s inquiry.