Mr Clive Chan, Headmaster

Mr Chan has extensive experience in teaching English to people of all ages and abilities. He returned to Hong Kong after spending years studying and working in Australia. He has taught English in different secondary schools and Business English at a university in Hong Kong.

Our society has never been so deeply divided since the Umbrella Movement in 2014. Worse, some of our youngsters felt so distraught that three young people aged 21 to 35 took their lives to vent their anguish and hopelessness within the last three weeks.

We can easily condemn Carrie Lam, our severely battered Chief Executive, for causing the suicides by not responding positively to the young protesters’ demands, and worse, by repeatedly condemning the ‘violent’ acts of a small number of protesters who meant to defile the Legislative Council Building which in their minds no longer represents the voice of the people. Loads of critical or even hate messages have been exchanged on different social media platforms, which can hardly help to resolve the current impasse.

An educator by profession, I am no social critic; neither can I offer any insightful solutions to the situation. However, I am extremely concerned about the wellbeing of our young people and fear that more suicides will follow. 

It does take a lot of courage for a person to end his or her life, so these three young people must have had an extreme sense of desperation and hopelessness before they jumped off, the most determined and brutal way to end one’s life.  They must have felt that the situation isn’t going to get any better, and maybe their death or ‘martyrdom’ can help to bring some positive, albeit little, change.

If I had had the opportunity to speak with these three young adults, I would have told them I felt depressed and shared their indignation and helplessness.  Before June 12, many of us had envisaged the amendments to the extradition bill would be easily passed by the pro-establishment legislators who care more about their political careers than the welfare of the masses. But thanks to the one million people taking to the streets on June 9 and tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators besieging the government headquarters on June 12, and paradoxically the brutality of the police in broad daylight, the bill sparked unsurpassed unity of Hong Kong people and austere criticisms from the international community that forced the government to back down on June 15, just before the extraordinary peaceful protest by 2 million people on June 16. Though our pig-headed Chief Executive refused to withdraw the bill, it has been technically shelved. It is indeed a phenomenal success for Hong Kong people who have shown first-rate, indeed exemplary, civic consciousness to the world.

Understandably, our young people are still disgruntled as the Chief Executive has maintained an adamant stance and refused to engage in genuine dialogue with them. However, they have got to understand our CE was not popularly elected and does not see herself truly accountable to the public. It may be unrealistic to expect her to change overnight. (It was callous of her to ignore questions about the suicides at press conferences, however.) Therefore, instead of sacrificing their lives for very little gain, our young people should focus their energy on continually fighting for the head of government and legislature to be fully elected by genuine universal suffrage.

It is human inclination to see what we are lacking rather than what we have achieved. We may have experienced one of most turbulent months in our lives, but we should be truly proud of ourselves for we have achieved more than what we had initially imagined. Our youths who have grown up in an instant culture will probably disagree with me as they are used to immediate gratification in life. Notwithstanding, 30 days or even 30 years are extremely transient from a historical perspective.  Most of the successful political and social changes have been attained by unrelenting and persistent efforts of individuals committed to non-violence for decades or even hundreds of years.

It is absolutely heartbreaking to see our young people taking their lives. Instead of pointing finger from a distance, we should have empathy and understand why and how different parties think and feel so that we can have genuine non-violent communication and hopefully reconciliation so that our young people can see hope in our society.

May God bless our city, our young people in particular!

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan