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Hong Kong youth

Asked about jailing of protesters, chief secretary vows to improve communication with city’s youth

Speaking on radio show, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung discusses expectations for administration, including express rail link opening and economic development

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 2:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 12:48pm

Hong Kong’s No 2 official has vowed to improve communication with the city’s youth and give them hope on education, employment and housing policies, even as critics raise concerns that youngsters with “aspirations” for society would be deterred by a recent court ruling sending several protesters to jail.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung’s remarks came after a court ruling on Tuesday in which 13 pro-democracy protesters convicted of unlawful assembly had their original community service sentences changed to jail terms of between eight and 13 months after prosecutors successfully appealed for heavier penalties.

The activists were part of a wider group who in 2014 stormed the Legislative Council over a controversial government development project. Their supporters said that in giving the harsher sentence, the court was deterring “youngsters who have expectations and aspirations for society”.

Asked how officials would carry on with youth policy in the aftermath of the case, Cheung said “good communication” was needed, without mentioning the court’s ruling.

Why were 13 Hong Kong protesters jailed, and what does this mean for future demonstrations?

“We need more understanding, listening, collaboration and response – it’s not just PR or superficial work … We need to show them hope for their studies, employment, home-ownership and entrepreneurship,” he explained.

Speaking on a Metro Radio programme, the chief secretary touched on a range of topics, noting that economic development and cross-border transport infrastructure projects were the “highlights” of the current administration, which had “enjoyed a smooth start” since its swearing-in on July 1.

Cheung added that the government would seek to improve the executive branch’s relationship with the legislature and be more “innovative, interactive and collaborative” in its work.

Cheung also said he was “confident” that the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link could open on schedule next year.

Last month, the government announced a controversial plan to allow national laws to be enforced in a quarter of the rail link’s Hong Kong terminus that would be leased to the mainland. Pan-democratic lawmakers have vowed to derail the plan, claiming it will destroy the “one country, two systems” principle.

Hong Kong bosses may be forced to set aside savings to make long service and severance payments

On labour rights, the former labour minister reiterated that the government was seeking to work out by the end of the year a revised version of the previous administration’s controversial plan to scrap a much-criticised system that allows employers to dip into workers’ pension funds for severance and long-service payments.

He said the government would consider increasing the HK$7.9 billion in subsidies to be given to businesses over a 10-year period as part of the original plan to get rid of the so-called offsetting mechanism under the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) scheme.

Cheung also said the government would seek to boost Hong Kong’s economy through the opportunities offered by the national “Greater Bay Area” development project and the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

The Greater Bay Area plan seeks to encourage integration between Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities, while the Belt and Road global economic strategy covers dozens of countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.