Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Get children to exercise, by pushing them if we need to

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-01-21

Kelly Yang

Kelly Yang says a heavy academic workload is no excuse for our children not to exercise. It’s up to parents to lead the way to fitness

Two teenagers who hadn’t seen each other in almost a year because one is in boarding school recently bumped into each other at my office. They hugged each other, talking a mile a minute, in the way that teenagers do. “We should hang out!” one said. “Totally!” the other replied. I waited for them to make plans to go to the beach or on a hike. Instead, one excitedly asked, “You want to do lunch sometime?”

I’m sorry, but when did “doing lunch” become a thing for the young? When I was a child, hanging out meant hanging out – as in outside, preferably with a bike, ball or frisbee. If someone asked me to do lunch, I would have looked them in the eye and said: “Do I look like my mum to you?”

But times have changed and, apparently, kids now do lunch. The latest study released by the University of Hong Kong shows that our children are far less fit than their peers on the mainland and around the world. More than a quarter are overweight or obese. Our boys’ heart and lung fitness levels are worse than those of boys in Europe. Our girls’ flexibility was below average, too.

Many blame academic pressure, but I disagree. While it’s true that the pressure is probably more intense today than it was 10 years ago, academic learning and exercise are not mutually exclusive. It’s entirely possible to prioritise academics while still getting enough exercise.

Children simply don’t want to. Every Sunday morning, I ask my five-year-old son whether he wants to go hiking with me and the answer is always the same: no way! A 2013 study done in Britain revealed children today would rather read, do chores and even homework than play outside. As a result, they spend half as much time outdoors as their parents did.

This is a tragedy, not just because exercising is fun and stress-relieving but also because not exercising can literally kill us. We, as parents, need to stop treating exercise as an optional activity, something to do when there’s nothing good on TV. We need to start treating it with the life-saving respect it deserves. In doing so, we probably need to make a few other changes too – like not letting our domestic helpers carry our children’s school bags, taking away our kids’ gaming consoles, and hitting the parks at the weekend instead of the malls. We should probably “do lunch” less ourselves.

As a city, it also means we need to prioritise the health of our environment. A few times recently, the pollution has been so bad that I’ve had to say to my kids, “Come on, let’s go home for some fresh air”. This is funny when you say it to people in the US or the UK; it’s not so funny when it affects your life. The government needs to step up its efforts to reduce pollution, if not for environmental reasons, then for purely economic ones: obesity, diabetes and heart problems are expensive.

And so, every Sunday, no matter how much my son protests, I drag him out hiking with me. He can complain all he wants; his whines and objections are no match for a mother’s love.

Kelly Yang teaches writing at The Kelly Yang Project, an after-school centre for writing and debate in Hong Kong. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School.


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New strategies needed as Third Industrial Revolution unfolds

South China Morning Post
Business
THE VIEW
2015-01-21

Richard Wong

In the technology-driven Third Industrial Revolution, education and health care loom as major employers, along with non-profit enterprises

Many today believe the world has entered the Third Industrial Revolution, where technological improvements in robotics and automation will boost productivity and efficiency.

These advancements have three biases: They tend to be capital-intensive (favouring those with financial resources), skill-intensive (favouring those with a high level of technical proficiency), and labour-saving (reducing the number of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs).

The pundits speculate the economic impact on the job market will be significant, and present serious social and political challenges in terms of growing inequality and the provision of safety nets to mitigate the consequences of disruptive technological progress. The concerns are three-fold.

First, it is uncertain whether demand for labour will continue to grow as technology marches forward. If not, there will be serious dislocations and worsening inequality. This is a particular concern for semi-skilled workers. If the Third Industrial Revolution continues to spread globally, then Asia’s Second Industrial Age might end swiftly. Hong Kong’s encounter with the old manufacturing era lasted only one generation before it became a service economy.

Second, the rapid development of smart software is transforming the old service economy. In the “on-demand” economy, computer power joins hands with freelance workers. Uber is an example of this. In the West, in the Second Industrial Age that ended last century, workers were protected from unemployment, penury in retirement, and health and safety risks either by the welfare state or their employers.

In the “on-demand” economy, such risks are pushed on to individuals, even more so if on-demand services are organised across national borders. New approaches have to be found to mitigate the associated economic and social risks. Governments are usually poorly informed and incentivised to do this.

Third, the new technology has a winner-take-all effect that is driving the rise in income and wealth inequality. This may not necessarily pose an economic challenge for society, but it is likely to provoke social and political concerns. The future presents at least two challenges: economically it is about good jobs and socially it is about safety nets. Which industries will be the employment growth areas? And can they provide social safety nets?

Employment in industries experiencing slow technological progress, like education, will increase faster than industries with rapid productivity growth, like telecommunications. This is because the former have to hire more workers to increase output by amounts commensurate with rapid-growth industries.

Employment growth will be even stronger if, over time, the demand for products in slow productivity growth industries rises faster than incomes, as in education. Investing in education also helps people to acquire the requisite skills to secure good jobs in the new technology-driven economy. Education will naturally become a major employer.

Healthcare is also expected to offer employment opportunities even though it has experienced rapid technological progress. This is because demand is rising as incomes grow, more diseases are now treatable, and the population is ageing globally. While these industries will offer employment, a social safety net is still needed, particularly for older workers who have less incentive and ability to acquire new skills.

The social welfare state of the 20th century is no longer affordable. Governments are also not best-positioned to address the problems because they are too diversified and not sufficiently specialised in any single task; require immediate results; and find it hard to abandon programmes once they are introduced.

Thirty years ago, the late management guru Peter Drucker argued in favour of deploying non-profit corporations to tackle hard social problems. This Third Sector would be competitive, focused on a single objective through specialisation, and receive funding from public and private sector sources and customer payments.

The Third Sector has grown rapidly in recent years and will almost certainly be the most important employer in the new technology-driven era. Both education and healthcare should properly be in the Third Sector. This will make them more efficient and competitive, and best able to create jobs. For-profit business enterprises would also play a role by providing donations, purchasing services, or directly organising corporate social responsibility activities.

There is, therefore, a path for addressing the economic and social challenges that will arise from the economic upheavals of the Third Industrial Age. For-profit business enterprises must stay efficient and profitable to fund growth in the Third Sector. Non-profit enterprises must become more efficient and competitive like their counterparts in the for-profit sector to create more good jobs.

Richard Wong Yue-chim is Philip Wong Kennedy Wong Professor in Political Economy at the University of Hong Kong


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Hong Kong’s right to resolve its own problems, provided by law, is lost on Leung Chun-ying

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-01-21

Michael C. Davis

Michael C. Davis says the chief executive and his team are failing in their duty to safeguard Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as provided by law, to the detriment of the people and Beijing

The Hong Kong government has lately had great difficulty understanding what autonomy is and what its responsibilities are for the high degree of autonomy provided under the Basic Law.

In last summer’s white paper, Beijing admonished us that a “high degree of autonomy is not full autonomy”.

In his policy address, the chief executive, following Beijing’s line, argued that the protester’s slogan of “Hong Kong shall resolve Hong Kong’s problems” violated the constitution.

The protests in Hong Kong have been driven by the concern that the special administrative region’s autonomy is being eroded. In the face of a local government that has been unwilling to defend Hong Kong autonomy, many Hongkongers fear it will be lost and, along with it, the rule of law and other core values. For the protesters, democracy offers the possibility of a government that will represent Hong Kong concerns more effectively in its relationship with the central government.

The word “autonomy” is not very precise. In common understanding, autonomous administration refers to self-government or a degree of freedom from external authority for a particular region in a country.

While autonomy is not addressed much by international law on a general level, it is sometimes addressed by treaty where territory is transferred from one country to another, such as was done for Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

In lay terms, a “high degree of autonomy” simply suggests heightened local authority but, to make sense of it in legal terms, one would have to look more specifically at what is promised in the documents that create it. This might be an international treaty but, more often, it will be a local constitution or Basic Law, supplemented by local legislation.

China has two types of autonomy, national minority autonomy for ethnic minorities under Article 4 of the Chinese constitution, and special administrative autonomy for areas like Hong Kong under Article 31. The latter allows considerable flexibility to permit special administrative regions to have a high degree of autonomy.

To make sense of this arrangement for Hong Kong, and to judge whether the approach of the Hong Kong government is appropriate, one must look at the specific provisions in the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.

The Joint Declaration provides that Hong Kong “shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs”. Hong Kong is to be “vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication”. The Joint Declaration then elaborates a number of areas in which Hong Kong is to have autonomy that are stipulated for inclusion in the Basic Law.

The Basic Law text makes it difficult to understand how the chief executive can disavow a slogan alleging Hong Kong responsibility for resolving Hong Kong’s problems. Basic Law Article 8 provides for a separate legal system, while Article 16 provides for the Hong Kong SAR to conduct administrative affairs “on its own”. Article 18 provides that no national laws apply in Hong Kong except for those listed in Annex III, and those can only relate to defence and foreign affairs.

Article 22 of the Basic Law says: “No department of the central people’s government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the central government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this law.”

Of course, the numerous guarantees on judicial independence, non-interference in local autonomy, human rights protection and democratic reform all go towards defining the scope of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Implicit in the notion of autonomy is the presumption that the local government will defend its autonomy. Carrying out this responsibility encourages the central government to adhere to its commitment not to interfere in local affairs and is very much in the national interest. It is not hostile to the central government but acts merely to sustain the objectives of the autonomy arrangement.

For Hong Kong, the need to guard its autonomy is of vital importance to maintaining the rule of law and guarding Hong Kong’s core values because of the gap between the mainland and Hong Kong in this regard.

The local rule of law and liberal human rights guarantees are what most distinguishes Hong Kong from the mainland. The rule of law is the bulwark for guarding the basic rights of Hong Kong people and the legal rights of local and international investors. It underlies Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.

For these reasons, the subservient approach of the Hong Kong government is not in the local or national interest.

The constant lecturing by Hong Kong officials on the limits of the SAR’s autonomy, as was very much in evidence in the chief executive’s policy address, demonstrates a lack of commitment to these autonomous responsibilities under the Basic Law.

Professor Michael C. Davis, of the University of Hong Kong, specialises in constitutional law and human rights


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Pan-democrats must seek talks, as a veto is likely to serve Beijing’s interests most

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-01-16

Simon Young

Simon Young says pan-democrats can “seize the opportunity” by drawing up a list of negotiable demands and seeking talks with the government, to test its commitment to universal suffrage – before they consider a veto

There are growing signs that both the central and Hong Kong governments no longer see universal suffrage in 2017 as a priority. Did they ever? I think they did because it was perceived as a way to confer greater legitimacy on those in power and thereby aid in their ability to govern. However, it seems that after the Occupy protests there is now an indifference if not hesitation in taking this major step in political reform.

If movement towards universal suffrage invites disruptive unlawful protests and interference by foreign governments, then Hong Kong is not ready for universal suffrage, nor is the central government. The signs of this new thinking are telling.

We are told not to get our hopes up with the second round of consultation. At the launch, the chief secretary said that in relation to the constitutional and legal framework, “there is no room for any concessions or compromises to be made in order to win over the support from the pan-democratic members”. The next day, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs “confessed … there is not much room there for us to do anything significant so as to convince the 27 pan-democratic members to change their mind”. On the radio, the secretary for justice described the task as “very close to mission impossible”.

Beyond its flashy cover, the consultation document exudes little enthusiasm for reform. There are few if any new ideas or bridging points for legislators to seize upon. On the design of the nominating committee, instead of progressive suggestions such as abolishing corporate voting, rethinking existing subsectors, or allowing directly elected committee members, the aim is to maintain the status quo because “the wish of each subsector should be respected and widespread support from the relevant subsectors should be obtained, otherwise politically it would be difficult to forge consensus”. Such conservatism ensures a narrow base for the nominating committee, as different views on how to expand it will be ignored on the grounds that a consensus has yet to be forged.

This is what happened to the issue of the political party affiliation of the chief executive. In the first consultation document, we were told this bar might be lifted in the review of local legislation. However, in the second document, the issue has been taken off the table because the government has yet to introduce a law on political parties and “different sectors of the community have yet to arrive at a clear consensus” – again, that familiar expression. One would have thought universal suffrage, if one is serious about it, elevates the status of political parties.

Nor was there any more enthusiasm for democracy in the policy address, which reminded us that “universal suffrage” are words found in the Basic Law and not the Sino-British Joint Declaration. There is a bare promise to “lobby” legislators to obtain the two-thirds majority support, but up to now we see no attempt to engage them in dialogue and negotiations. The continued aspersions about foreign interference do nothing to alleviate the mistrust between the relevant stakeholders.

The pan-democrats’ veto will likely serve the interests of the central and Hong Kong governments most. Pan-democrats will be blamed for frustrating the public’s aspiration for universal suffrage and will suffer the consequences in future polls. The secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs has already drawn attention to these potential consequences in referring to the “worst-case scenario”.

The governments know that, after the veto, universal suffrage for the legislature will come no earlier than 2028; two years being insufficient for a directly elected chief executive in 2022 to consult, amend the Basic Law and enact local legislation to implement reform in 2024. Thirteen years is a good stretch of time to educate a new generation of young people on the “proper” understanding of “one country, two systems”. Functional constituencies will remain intact until then and maybe longer. With few options available, the hope is for more disgruntled voters to return pro-government legislators, that being the only way for Hong Kong to be governable again.

In the current political climate, the veto should be the last thing that pan-democrat legislators want to invoke. It plays entirely into the hands of the two governments. In an ironic twist of fate, accepting a political reform deal is now the most powerful political weapon in the hands of pan-democrats. They really must “seize the opportunity” to test how committed the two governments are to universal suffrage.

All signs indicate that Beijing is happy to allow the current administration to carry on for another five years in 2017. As rational actors, members of the current administration have little incentive to realise a system of universal suffrage, which, with proper safeguards, could transform the current political landscape, even under the constraints of the August 31 decision of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

Pan-democrat legislators need to draw up a list of negotiable demands and seek talks with the two governments. The demands might include proposals to make the nominating committee more representative and the nomination process more open and fair, and election rules that allow voters to veto all candidates.

Other possible demands include obtaining central government assurances on future reform, functional constituencies, Article 23, and acceptability of candidates from the pan-democrat camp. The official response to such entreaties will be the real test. If legislators come up against a cold wall, then the governments’ unarticulated desire will become plain. A veto in such circumstances will appear justified without fear of consequences at the polls.

But if the governments’ articulated aim proves genuine and agreement becomes possible, then those pan-democrats involved in the breakthrough may well have taken the first step to becoming the leading political force in 2016 and 2017.

Professor Simon Young Ngai-man is associate dean (research) in the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong


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公權力需要「正當性」

明報
筆陣
2015-08-13

蔡子強

上星期四,全國人大常委范徐麗泰在接受電台訪問,談論到如今香港政局時,有感而發,說:「希望任何一位有權力的人士,拿着權力時不要用到太盡。」

雖然范太厚道,沒有指名道姓,但訪問中談到曾德成和鄧國威兩位局長「被辭職」的風波,所以范太想批評的人可謂呼之欲出。

這又讓我想起之前一位新聞界朋友告知我的一件往事。話說特首選舉期間,一位退休高官與我這位朋友分析起唐、梁兩位候選人時說,由過去殖民地到今天特區,政府其實一直都掌握很多權力,但過去無論董班子、曾班子,都懂得節制,沒有把權力用得很盡,但這位退休高官認為梁振英則不然,並預言梁一旦上台,他將會把執政者手上的權力用得很盡。

結果,大家有目共睹,不能不佩服這位退休高官的先見之明及觀人之微。

問題不僅是有權與否

最近連串政治爭議的本質,歸根究柢,都是涉及掌權者如何行使權力的問題。

●特首當然有權更換班子裏的問責局長,但權力卻可以行使得decent一點,可以先和當事人好好溝通,而非最後一刻讓「米已成炊」,才告知當事人並要人即時「執包袱」,之後又出動「蠢人」(借用曾鈺成語),在梁營媒體上「放風」「唱衰」當事人,說兩位局長如何如何不中用,讓人「心寒」(再次借用曾鈺成語);

●港大校委會當然有權表決副校長的任命,但以「等埋首副」為由,反過來漠視「正印」校長的據理力爭,也實在太過荒謬,亦怪不得港大師生校友齊齊嘩然,以至群起力爭。

在這些例子裏,問題不是當事人有沒有權這樣做,正如前述,他們絕對有權,問題是當權力被行使時,究竟有沒有「正當性」﹖又或者,權是否用得太盡,盡到連「正當性」都乾脆省卻了事﹖

Power vs. Authority

英文裏有兩個概念:power 及 authority。中文往往都簡單譯作權力,但在概念上,兩者其實有顯著的差別。

Power的基礎可以是武力威迫、金錢引誘、各賞罰制裁手段,來讓人縱然心不甘情不願,也只得勉為其難地服從,因此,它可以是赤裸裸的。

但authority則有所不同,它有着其「正當性」,往往是伴隨着職務而來,建立在法理之上。所以,authority還會跟你講法律,講道理,講due process,還會講求「服眾」。

所以:

●土豪最喜歡炫耀自己的power,總之是「有錢使得鬼推磨」,「耶穌」最好少講;

●強盜的邏輯就更加赤裸裸,總之是「有強權無公理」、「順我者生,逆我者亡」,就是這般簡單;

●但公權力卻是authority,要講求正當性,要講求讓公眾心悅誠服。

這本來只是政治學的「ABC」。

赤裸裸的權力只會惹來反噬

時至今日,行使authority時的正當性,不單止於它是否符合法律,亦要看它能否有理據足以服眾,讓人心甘情願的服從。

長期欠缺正當性的authority,只會逐漸淪為power。

而當權力是以赤裸裸的形式來行使,欠缺理由,欠缺正當性,不足以服眾,結果只會惹來各種的質疑、挑戰,和反抗,歷史上這樣的例子,不勝枚舉。

長期只靠赤裸裸強權來逼人就範,只會為反抗不斷蓄積力量,終有一天,江河決堤,自身反遭反噬。

香港近年政治上的風風雨雨,本質也只不過是如此。

●特首由小圈子選了出來,手握大權之後,便「過海神仙」,當日什麼「開誠布公」、「香港營」等漂亮說話,都已成過眼雲煙,總之「老子有權」,「有權就使盡」,批評由人批評,大官我自為之;

●至於立法會,建制派只要數夠票,便不惜「夾硬」來,例如財委會前主席吳亮星,就算主持會議,說來說去都說不清,但總之數夠票,便可以「快刀斬亂麻」;

●事到如今,就連大學校委會也變成如此,在一個本應最講道理的最高學府,其最高管治機構也出了「等埋首副」這樣荒謬的理由,就連堂堂港大校長,也無能為力。

不錯,若然你問他們是否有權這樣做,答案是他們絕對有權這樣做,但問題是,當公權力被用得有幾盡得幾盡,又欠缺正當性時,那將是社會反撲、體制崩壞的開始。

蔡子強

中文大學政治與行政學系高級講師