Hong Kong youth adviser calls on political leaders to listen to new generation

Lau Ming-wai says challenges facing today’s young are very different from those of previous times

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 1:14am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 January, 2016, 1:59am

The city’s top adviser on youth policies has called on political leaders to empathise with and listen to the younger generation before formulating policies related to them.

Speaking a week ahead of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s policy address, Lau Ming-wai, chairman of the Commission on Youth, also said he disagreed with the view that the desire for universal suffrage could be placated by better social mobility, stressing the two were separate issues.

Leung, who it is widely believed will seek re-election next year, is least popular among the city’s younger demographic, according to regular polls conducted by local universities.

“Our political leaders or politicians … are typically 50 or 55 plus. They themselves need to go and sit down and listen to young people,” Lau said.

The challenges posed to the younger generation in this era are very different from those in the past, Lau said. While young people of previous generations had few options after graduation, their counterparts now can decide between career paths “more complicated than the London Tube”, he said.

“Listening entails a high degree of empathy. It absolutely does not mean you must agree with young people. But I think we need to do more listening.”

At the height of the Occupy protests in 2014, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and other officials met with its student leaders. Little dialogue with student activists has taken place since then.

Two months ago, a number of fresh faces inspired by the protests came out winners in the district council elections. Leung pledged to appoint young people to government advisory bodies. But he has made no promises on restarting the process towards achieving universal suffrage, saying it would not be dealt with in the remainder of his term. Instead, he has focused on “upward social mobility”.

Lau said: “The two issues are separate. You solve one, the other still exists, whichever one that is.

“I do not agree with the view that you solve mobility therefore you have no more need for universal suffrage. I don’t believe in that. Both need to be addressed and both are our long struggles.”

Lau also elaborated on remarks he made on a recent RTHK programme that “all political parties are rubbish”.

“I definitely think none of them are appealing to me,” he said. “With the further ideological polarisation, Hong Kong genuinely lacks moderates. There are no moderates representing most people who take a more balanced view of things.”

Lau said middle-of-the-road parties “ought to have a political market”. Asked if he regarded Leung as a moderate, he said: “He’s very firm with his principles. And whether you agree with those principles or positions, I think one can commend anyone for standing firm.”