Talking Points: does freedom of speech mean you can say whatever you want?

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Compiled by Jamie Lam

Hate it when you can’t talk back? Well, you can with Young Post. Have your say and share with students around Hong Kong

Compiled by Jamie Lam |
Published: 
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Nicole Shing Hiu-ching, 15, Ma On Shan Tsung Tsin Secondary School

Intelligent people must know they can’t just say whatever they want. If someone says something in a way that is even slightly rude, the other person can get very angry or feel sad. Words have the power to hurt people, which is why we should speak with care. We should respect other people.

On the other hand, if we express our views politely, we can share them with others without any problems. Society should be peaceful, without any sort of social conflict.

I think everyone should be careful about what they say and consider others’ feelings – only then can we enjoy freedom of speech.

Alex Fung, 17, Workers’ Children Secondary School

I really don’t think so. We still have to stay within the laws. Although we have the right to express our opinion, some things are forbidden by law, such as talking about independence for Hong Kong.

We need to start taking responsibility for what we say – and that’s not just because we have to abide by the law; it’s the right thing to do. You can’t, for example, abuse someone just because you don’t like them and call that freedom of speech. That’s using a right we have to be rude and disrespectful to others. It should not be allowed to happen in a civilised society.

Sumayea Mahmud, 18, St. Margaret’s Girls’ College

I would say no. Yes, freedom of speech allows people to express their opinions without any interference from the government and debate controversial topics, but some of us take our ideas and opinions too far.

For example, if a person gives a hate speech, it will hurt many people and may even cause social conflict. But the speaker will defend their actions by saying they’re exercising their right to freedom of speech. It’s very important that we don’t abuse this cherished tradition.

Tiffany Lim, 13, Tak Nga Secondary School

Freedom of speech refers to the right to express an opinion without any restrictions. But even though we have that freedom, we should know when to be quiet, too.

We all have something called a conscience – a voice tells you whether your behaviour is right or wrong. It’s how you feel when you tell a white lie or when you’re rude to someone. We can do all these things because we have freedom of speech.

This freedom is a very powerful tool which has been used to fight evil and bring joy and harmony to the world. But just like when we tell a lie or we are bad to someone, it can also be used by people to cause harm to others.

Kary Tong, 15, St. Paul’s School

Even though we have the right to speak freely, we should be careful about what we say. We should not equate freedom of speech with the belief that we can say whatever we want. Examples of this kind of abuse are hate speeches and racist comments.

Even when we criticise the government, we have to choose our words carefully. This is because though we’re not supposed to talk about things like independence which go against the Basic Law, there are no concrete definitions on what we can and can’t say. So, can we say for sure that we even have freedom of speech in Hong Kong? Who makes those decisions?

Our topics always get a lot of responses. Check out what other students had to say and join the conversation at Young Post's website

In our next Talking Points, we’ll discuss:

Should fathers get the same amount of parental leave as mothers?

We are now accepting your answers for this topic. To take part, email your answer with your name, age, and school, along with a nice, clear selfie (make sure it’s not blurry), to [email protected] by lunchtime on Monday. Don’t forget to include “Talking Points” in the subject line.

Edited by Ginny Wong

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