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.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” 

-          Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Dear parents,

I was greatly saddened by the news of the suicide of Peter Poon Hong-yan, the 25-year-old son of Education Undersecretary Christine Choi Yuk-lin, early last month. 

Though I strongly disagree with the educational policy of Choi, particularly her stance on national education, and was among the 17,000 people who signed the petition to urge Carrie Lam not to appoint her as the education deputy, my heart still went out to her for her loss. 

Indeed, people who have experienced loss of a loved one would understand the immense anguish of the bereaved, and they would only show compassion rather than find fault with, much less to mock at the bereft.

Therefore, it was indeed deplorable to see words of ridicule on the Democracy Wall at the Education University.  Those who accused Choi for her failing as a mother while craving for political success were apparently rubbing salt into her wound.  Unfortunately, such lack of empathy is prevalent among the Millennials who are also more depression and suicide prone than their parents’ generation of baby boomers.

Most baby boomers in Hong Kong were born into a big family with working class parents.  With many mouths to feed, parents hardly had time to give these baby boomers much individual attention.  In the 1970s and early 1980s, only two percent of the teenagers could get into university and most would finish their education with government grants and loans, and young married adults would work hard to provide not only for their young children but also their aging parents and younger siblings. 

Most Millennials, in contrast, were born into a small family with no or just one sibling and a full-time domestic helper, and more than twenty percent of them would enjoy some sort of university or tertiary education.  Extracurricular activities like sports, language and music classes are the norm rather than luxury.  Most young people would expect their parents to be financially independent whilst taking their parents’ help in funding their education and buying their first home for granted.  Some overindulgent parents would even help these Millennials in their job hunt.

It is therefore unsurprising to see these Millennials to have much less resilience than their parents.  To be fair, present-day students have to cope with a far tougher curriculum and a much heavier workload at school but it is reasonable to say they are less buoyant than their parents as they aren’t used to neglect or failures, which partly leads to an ever-rising suicide rate among young students.  ‘Hermit teens’ who want neither to study nor work but stay home playing Internet games are also a unique creation of this generation. Even among those who have a bigger vision and campaign for greater freedom and democracy of the society, the lack of immediate success has driven some of them to negate all establishments and promote unrealistic and unsubstantiated propositions like a politically independent Hong Kong.

Aside from being less robust, growing up in a small family and being the centre of attention as a child also makes a lot of these Millennials self-important and less empathetic than their parents.   Brisk and fragmented comments in the social media may also do more to sever the society than breed the culture of diversity and true dialogue. 

Lest you think I have a totally negative view of our young people, many of them are indeed creative and have broader common knowledge than us as they enjoy prompt access to wide-ranging information on the Internet.  It is essential, however, that we nurture their resilience and empathy by exposing them to the underprivileged world so that they would truly appreciate how blessed they are and understand it is not the end of the world when they fail to get the desired grades.  A service trip to deprived remote areas of China and other underdeveloped countries may become a life-changing experience for them.  Try it instead of taking them on a luxurious tour to countries like Japan or Korea next time.

May there be more compassion in our society!


Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan