Hong Kong has unveiled the first, comprehensive blueprint for youth development, laying out 160 initiatives with the overall focus on cultivating a better sense of belonging to the country.
While many of the measures were either announced in the chief executive’s policy address in October or already in place, Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs Alice Mak Mei-kuen on Tuesday said her plan showed the government was taking a new centralised approach to creating a better future for the city’s young people.
“In terms of our vision, we hope to cultivate our youth into a generation that loves Hong Kong and their country, courts international perspectives and possesses a positive mindset,” she said.
“We will ramp up the sense of belonging to the country and Hong Kong among the youth, [while making sure] they have a thorough understanding of the [Chinese] constitution and Basic Law.”
“I believe that once they understand it, of course, they can continue their criticism, but at least they will have the message,” she said.
Mak stressed that while the blueprint showed the government was taking a holistic view of youth development, the strategy was not designed to only address one particular issue. Specific policies would be created for different sets of young people, she said.
While authorities had set up indicators to measure progress in tackling the challenges ahead, quality of work remained the most important consideration, she insisted.
“We should no longer use headcount as an indicator of our youth work, but the quality,” she said. “We hope that overall a social atmosphere can be established to let everyone see that our communication and contact with young people is profound,” she added.
She said her bureau would regularly report to the Legislative Council and pledged the blueprint would adapt over time to “feel the pulse of the youth”.
Paul Wong Wai-ching, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s department of social work and social administration, welcomed the blueprint but said he wanted to see more innovative ideas brought to the table.
“It is a good thing to have a policy and have interdepartmental cooperation. Giving the youth more opportunities to climb the social ladder is also good,” he said.
“However, the government will eventually have to consider how to convince young people they are part of Hong Kong’s future, as well as to stay and contribute. This is the hardest and most urgent matter we have to do as a whole.”
However, a Democratic Party representative described the policies as “placing old wine in a new bottle”, with the bureau failing to address the “serious rifts” between the government and the youth resulting from the social unrest in 2019.
Expressing its support for the policies, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said the initiatives would help “lay a foundation” for developing the next generation.