Why youths protest

Joyce Wong, Renaissance College

Officials should listen to young people's concerns instead of just criticising them

Joyce Wong, Renaissance College |

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Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen recently sparked a wave of criticism and protest from the "post-80s generation" with a speech at the Roundtable Institute youth conference. His theme was the "Dissatisfaction of the Post-80s Generation".

Tang praised these young people for chasing their dreams and said he understands the reasons for their social activism.

But at the same time, he said the younger generation is quick to judge, headstrong and tends to look at complicated problems through simplified, one-sided lenses. He warned that if they do not analyse problems logically before expressing their dissatisfaction, senseless social movements would result, with dire consequences and bloodshed.

Tang's choice of words set off an immediate backlash. A week later, young protesters showed up to express their anger at a news conference he was attending.

It is perhaps true that some twenty-somethings are rash and quick to criticise, but Tang's generalisation, however unintended, about an entire generation is unfair. His speech was most likely meant to offer a word of wisdom, but it is only natural that his criticisms and language such as "bloodshed" would draw an adverse reaction.

Instead of trying to minimise demonstrations, what's more important is to find the reason for discontent in the first place. This is not to say the government is completely wrong and protesters are always right, but there are problems that need to be examined.

The dissatisfaction of the post-80s generation has been talked about in radio shows and television programmes over the years. A common concern that emerges is that many young people see no future or opportunities for themselves in our society. It doesn't help for a top member of the government to add further criticism, even if well-intentioned.

Still, what's done is done, and the following generation offers hope for change. But with an often-criticised education system focused on grades, tests and exams, putting stress on teachers and students, who's to say that the new generation won't feel discontentment as well?

Schools compete to be the best; students are forced by the system to strive for the highest scores. Exam results seem to be the most important thing, rather than the learning process. Instead of determining one's fate by test scores, our education system should shape students into well-rounded individuals capable of adapting to the times. It is only then that they will enter society with hope for opportunities and a future.

It is to be hoped the government can learn from this incident and try to develop a better community for the generations to come.