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Disaffected young require injection of hope

Hong Kong, 28 April 2021: More than 10,200 people have been arrested since mid-2019 in connection with the anti-government protests, according to official updates presented to the Legislative Council. Around two-thirds of them are under 25. This is not just a heartbreaking statistic, it’s a lost generation. Last month, I highlighted in this column a study conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups which revealed a quarter of university-educated under-35s plan on leaving to work overseas in the next five years. The same organisation released a survey in January showing 71% of young people believe our government doesn’t do enough to encourage them to develop locally.

At BC&C, we believe in investing in youth. We recruit and nurture homegrown legal talent; we fund academic development in universities; we actively support children’s charities; in the past five years, we have assisted grassroots development in athletics and football. Our ongoing title sponsorship of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s Inter-School Sailing Festival gives countless youngsters an otherwise unimagined opportunity to learn to sail. I was delighted to discover that the CHK Dragons, an all-Chinese development team we support in the local cricket leagues, won last Sunday for the first time this season.

So it was heartening to read this week the comments by tycoon Michael Kadoorie – Chairman of electricity supplier CLP Holdings and Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels – putting his faith in Hong Kong’s young people and stressing the government needs to do more to address their concerns. He called the lack of dialogue “rather sad”. In the same interview, his son and heir-apparent Philip said the government “sometimes loses sight of how difficult today is for the individual”. Is the current administration out of touch? It is worth noting that of the 16 non-governmental advisers in Carrie Lam’s de facto cabinet, the Executive Council, the youngest by some distance is 46 while the vast majority are 68 or over. (Just three of the 16 are female, by the way, and there is no one representing our ethnic minorities.)

Certainly, we need young people fully on board for this city’s most urgent issue, our stuttering Covid-19 vaccination programme. Last Friday, the minimum age for inoculation was lowered from 30 years to 16 (for German-made BioNTech) and 18 (for mainland-produced Sinovac). That at least brought a surge in bookings, some 31,300 in the 24 hours up to 8:00pm that day, more than double the number on Thursday. But we are still making painfully slow progress. Just 454,500 citizens – only 6.1% of the population – have received a second jab and can be considered fully inoculated. The arguments in favour of vaccination are overwhelming: by getting vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourself, but also your family, friends and work colleagues. If you haven’t done so already, you can book your jab here.

Our government is trying to twist the public’s arm, so to speak, by linking vaccinations to the relaxing of social distancing rules at F&B and entertainment venues starting from tomorrow. Customers visiting bars, nightclubs and other reopened premises must have received at least one vaccine shot, with the same rule applying to diners at restaurants that will be allowed to expand seating to eight people per table and operate until 2:00am. Staff are also required to have received at least one jab or show proof of certified medical exemption. Customers will also need to download a government-developed app with a colour-coding system to indicate their vaccination status.

Further, full vaccination is mandatory for any Hong Kong residents wishing to utilise future travel bubbles, our government has confirmed, beginning with the long-awaited route between Hong Kong and Singapore commencing on 26 May. Astonishingly, vaccination is not required for the Singapore residents flying here. “In making the travel bubble arrangements, the consensus was based on having the coronavirus situation under control on both sides in order to allow travellers to skip quarantine,” was the justification from Edward Yau, our Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development. This appears unfathomable to many, myself included, who feel any bubble should require the full vaccination of all participants.

Amid this city’s sometimes baffling public health policies, we continue to keep Covid-19 at bay. Officials confirmed seven new cases today – six of them imported – taking the cumulative total to 11,755, with 209 related fatalities.

The flagship in Michael Kadoorie’s hotel chain is the Peninsula Hong Kong, the legendary “Grande Dame of the Far East”. Not that Hong Kong’s 11th wealthiest person desperately needs my hard-earned dollars, but he will be pleased to know we’re having a family staycation there this weekend. Grandson Nathan is thrilled that I’ve arranged for one of the hotel’s signature green Rolls Royce Phantoms to collect us from home, although his mother is unimpressed. She says I’m spoiling him. I’ve assured her I’m investing in youth.

Stay safe and well, everybody!

Colin Cohen
Senior Partner
Boase Cohen & Collins

35+ years of legal experience is just a click away.

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