Image from Apple Daily
A typical afternoon in Hong Kong as we saw thousands of people with huge banners poured onto the streets making their way to the Liaison Office. This was not a New Years celebration or anniversary of the Hong Kong handover but a mass public protest. What's been observed recently is a growing number of youngsters in their 20s (also known as the 'post 80s generation or youths') has been making up a large percentage of the participants in public protests. Of course every generation have it's own share of young passionate activists, indeed for China in the past hundred years protest and political movements has always been spearheaded by youths. Certainly in Western countries this is nothing new. But in Hong Kong there has never been such noticeable turnout of youngsters in protests until lately. Most definitely they were never used to protests in such a ferocious and aggressive manner before. Sometimes the protests can go out of control and end up in scuffles with the police, as seen in the new years day march. Since then the post 80s generation has been perceived negatively by the public and in the media; branded as rebellious and a bunch of hooligans. Since then there's a lot of talk on the TV, radio and on the internet about this growing phenomenon, trying to understand why it is happening.
Prior to the handover in 1997 ordinary citizens rarely dabbled with politics as it was mostly left to the British rulers. When the British handed power over to China, for the first time in history the citizens of Hong Kong get to govern themselves under the 'one country, two systems' implemented by the PRC government. The public has grown more wary of politics which has been driven by the various factors and the uncertainty in their future under the rule of the China. Since then public protests has been a common sighting on the streets mostly detesting against the SAR government's policies. It happened so frequently at one point the city was unofficially named the 'City of Protests'.
The younger generations who were brought up through all of this have not only became more aware of social issues but also about exercising their political rights. Thanks to the internet with the ease in accessing up-to-date information, and with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the medium has helped youngsters discuss and exchange views with others. It has been one of the most effective tools for mobilizing public demonstrations and political activism. It goes to show the younger generations have developed strong opinions on social affairs and are not afraid to express them out in public, even on issues that may or may not directly affect them e.g. the Express Rail, economy and demand for universal suffrage.
Our parents' generation often perceive these young activists as troublemakers and a nuisance to society, though there are also others who are very supportive of them. For the generations who have lived through poverty, gaining financial stability is one of the most important aspiration in their lives and that is quite understandable. They were brought up singing to the tunes of Sam Hui in which a line of the lyrics to one of the songs goes 'No Money No Talk'. Even though they were politically aware the majority don't interfere with it just as long they can get on with their lives. Delving into politics and social issues was a luxury only limited to the elite minority. However the post 80s generations coming from various backgrounds were brought up with higher standard of living and education, their views on society are much more complex and they see the need to be concern about politics and society. It shows that their passions are more than just materialism or superficial things like Canto popstars and the latest fashion trend. Having said that it does not mean they don't care about financial stability, but they come to understand how economical factors will affect them on a macro scale rather just on an individual scale. Thus politics comes into play.
In a conservative society and being brought up on traditional values means that children should always be obedient and not to meddle in the affairs of the adults. Defiance against the elderly is a unacceptable. I'm sure most post 80s and pre 80s BBCs can relate to that too. But of course generational conflicts are not limited to Hong Kong and can be found in all cultures in the world. Some may say that young protesters are seeking for attention or have nothing better to do. But for certain they're not revolting against society nor protesting for the sake of it. They just want a platform for their voices to be heard and to engage in social issues that they care about on the same level as anyone else. In another words they want to be treated equally. Overall I see this as a positive progress and a maturing phase towards a democratic society rather a sign of social unrest, but it's also important that others (i.e. the government) are willing to listen and take their views into consideration. More power to the post 80s generation then.