Speech by Mr Tung Chee Hwa, the Chief Executive,
at the Conference on the
Review of the Implementation of the Charter for Youth

Saturday, December 20, 1997

The Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to take part in this Conference on the Review of the Implementation of the Charter for Youth today. I would like to take this opportunity to express my views and opinions on the young people and youth work in Hong Kong.

During my recent attendance in the graduation ceremonies of a number of tertiary institutions and visits to schools, I had the chance to come into contact with some of our young people. From them I got the overall impression that they are a group of youngsters with their own values and a sense of commitment, who have confidence in Hong Kong after the reunification and are aspiring to be the future masters of Hong Kong. It has given me great consolation and delight to see such a vivacious younger generation. We are now in an era of great historical significance. To Hong Kong, this era marks the end of 156 years of colonial rule and its reunification with the motherland after a prolonged separation. In the international scene, it represents a transformation from the past polarisation to development in all spheres. Peace and development are the main agenda of the world today. Economies have become more open and information technology is propelling rapid changes in economies, societies and other various areas. This in turn has created more opportunities for development as well as brought about more challenges.

The young people of Hong Kong are very fortunate. Without experiencing any wartime hardship and social upheavals, they were born and bred in a stable society that is materially and culturally affluent, hence their strong desire and aspiration for material gains. Furthermore, being exposed to the influence and exchanges of a wide variety of Chinese and Western thoughts, our youths have nurtured a liberal and lively mind. Nevertheless, whenever they are asked about responsibilities towards the country and people, some tend to be at a loss and sometimes self-contradicting. Such characteristic can be attributed to the unusual historical situation of Hong Kong.

The reunification with China on 1 July this year marks the beginning of a new era in which Hong Kong will be administered under the concept of "One Country, Two Systems". It is a major event in the history of the Chinese race and has a profound and far-reaching influence on all of us. As far as our youths and youth workers are concerned, the impact will be in terms of a call on the young people to acquire a thorough understanding of the historical development of Hong Kong, which is to become a part of the historical development of China. Accordingly, our youngsters have the responsibility to learn the culture and history of our country and people, with this learning process becoming an integral part of their upbringing. It is only through this that they are able to build up a firm sense of duty towards themselves, their families, the community, the country and the people, thereby becoming truly committed and contributive to themselves and society. In my view, this is what is expected from and the direction for the young people and youth workers in Hong Kong in this new era.

Because of the long separation from our motherland, promoting the knowledge of Chinese culture has become an important task of the SAR Government. From the practical viewpoint, this is the basis for the successful implementation of the "One Country, Two Systems" concept. In a deeper sense, this is the starting point for Hong Kong people to build a democratic, civilized, more prosperous and stable Hong Kong, as well as to take part in bringing a better life to all in the nation. As I have always said, the Chinese in Hong Kong should be proud of being a Chinese. We must work hard to familiarise ourselves with the Chinese culture and get to know the Chinese values. I stress this point because in one's lifetime, adolescence is the period when one is most imaginative, energetic, creative and innovative. It is in this way that the glorious cultural history of a civilization has been written down from generation to generation. I earnestly hope that our youths will develop a sense of patriotism and nationalism through familiarising with the culture of our motherland. In the assimilation of the essence of the fine Western culture in a cosmopolitan and pluralistic place like Hong Kong, they will hand down and further enhance the Chinese culture and build a better Hong Kong and China. This is because Hong Kong's future belongs to the young people.

It is precisely because adolescence is the most innovative period in one's lifetime that I consider that fulfilment of obligations and acceptance of responsibilities, in this context, should be more important than pursuit of their rights. This does not simply concern the right way to enhance self-accomplishment, develop one's potentials, and make one's dream come true. More importantly, it is to create an atmosphere and promote an attitude of correctness and vitality in the local community, thereby resolving satisfactorily the unhealthy problems prevailing in Hong Kong and among the youth. I firmly believe that it is the expectation of Hong Kong people that our young people will demonstrate such a spirit, that is, to focus more on the fulfilment of obligations and be more committed to oneself and the community.

The number of subscribers to the Charter for Youth in the past year or so has indicated that the development and promotion of youth work is hardly an easy job. The various behaviours of our young people further show that we must be determined and devoted a lot of efforts to youth work. In fulfilling the provisions in the Charter, youth groups have found it most difficult to help young people form a proper sense of social values, to prepare them for future changes in society, to help develop their talents, to encourage participation in social development, to protect them from undesirable influence and to assist families in taking up the role of a care-giver.

Some youth groups and organizations have done a great deal in developing and promoting youth work and have made numerous good suggestions. These are conducive to strengthening the work of steering the youth towards a proper direction, the aim of which is to prepare them for leadership in the 21st century. I get a strong feeling from the proposals of these youth groups that the attention and support of the entire community, especially the attention and support of the Government, is very important.

In the years ahead, the SAR Government will give full support to youth work and continue its efforts in organizing more programmes and activities for youths. For instance, in order to bring about a better understanding of the history and culture of our motherland, a civic education syllabus is being developed by the Education Department for junior secondary students. The aim is to enrich their knowledge of local social affairs, civil rights and obligations, government operations, the Basic Law as well as national affairs such as history, culture, population, geography, economic structure, political system, etc. Outside schools, a wide range of activities are being planned by the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education to promote the theme of "I am Chinese and Hong Kong is my home". Meanwhile, a subvention scheme is implemented on a trial basis by the Commission on Youth to encourage the relevant bodies to organize visits to the Mainland for local youths to enrich their knowledge of their mother country.

Whether desirable results can be achieved for youth development indeed depends on the support and efforts of all of us. I believe that this Conference is a good opportunity for you potentials workers to gather together, share your experience in the work of developing youth potentials and exchange views on the ways to implement the Charter for Youth. Your valuable experience and expertise will, without doubt, immensely benefit the HKSAR Government, the Commission on Youth and all the organizations and parties dedicated to youth development. I sincerely wish you a very successful Conference.

Thank you.