【明報專訊】NOT UNTIL she had been asked a great many times to unveil her comprehensive platform did Carrie Lam, who wants to stand for Chief Executive (CE), do so. When it was prepared, much ink was spilt to stress her new style of governance. The platform mentions a desire to rebuild social harmony and an intention to invite young people to comment on and participate in the administration of the territory.
Every person who has been head of the SAR government has said he regards young people's opportunities of upward mobility as important. Ironically, over the past decade, there has been a tendency for young people's "downward mobility" to worsen. Local academic studies show that, between 2001 and 2011, young people's median income fell, and middle-class jobs became markedly scarcer. In recent years, unemployment has been quite low, and Hong Kong now boasts what is almost full employment. On the face of it, young people do not lack job opportunities, but it is another matter whether they can find good jobs, achieve their own wishes and move upwards. It is hard for them to find ladders of promotion at work and, property prices remaining high, there is little hope that they can buy their own homes. Furthermore, Hong Kong's political system is hardly democratic. It is therefore understandable that young people harbour discontent. As for the SAR government's support for them, it is clearly inadequate. The authorities have set up a Commission on Youth, which advises the CE on matters concerning young people, but most of the "young people of outstanding talent" sitting on it are wealthy people's children or grandchildren. That has led to suspicions that the body may not be "down-to-earth". No government agency centralises the implementation of the government's youth policy, and it rests with such bodies as the Home Affairs Bureau and the Labour and Welfare Bureau to do so. Many departments are involved, whose efforts are not coordinated. Is there any reason why youth affairs can be satisfactorily handled?
Several people who want to stand in the next CE election have had regard to young people's resentment. It is of course a good thing for them to stress heeding young people's voices, but what one participates in matters more than the way one participates in it. No plan to bring some young people into the framework of advisory bodies as decorative vases would go a long way towards abating young people's resentment against the government. Hong Kong's framework of advisory bodies came into being when it was under British rule. After the territory had seen the 1967 riots, the Hong Kong British authorities, realising they had rarely compared notes with Hongkongers, adopted what is called a strategy of "administrative absorption of politics" to allow people's voices to be heard at various advisory bodies' meetings. They did so in the hope of making their governance more acceptable. However, since it was their primary concern to maintain stability and prevent another riot involving large numbers of young people, they never formulated any youth policy characterised with far-sightedness. Administrative absorption of politics proved quite successful in the 1970s and 1980s because the generality of citizens were then apathetic towards politics. Now ideas of democracy are all the rage, that strategy, which became ineffective in maintaining stability a long time ago, is out of keeping with the times.
Not only do young people want now to live better lives, but they also embrace strong ideals and ardently crave democratic participation. Any plan to include young people into Hong Kong's framework of advisory bodies with the sole object of maintaining stability and in the hope of making the younger generation more "amenable to instructions" is bound to end in failure. Both Carrie Lam and John Tsang have to make it clear to citizens how they would make sure that young people's participation would actually affect policy-making and convince them that their proposals are not just public-relations gimmicks of little consequence.