Most protesters in Hong Kong’s ongoing riots are young people. Many observers believe the protests are an outburst of resentment and anger accumulated among the youths in Hong Kong, which mainly stems from their dissatisfaction with education and livelihood.

Young people in Hong Kong have been receiving Hong Kong-style general and civic education. Some of these young people lack a clear and proper understanding of China’s current political system and Hong Kong’s ties with the Chinese mainland. Against the backdrop, they may find it difficult to build up a sense of national identity, which has resulted in their anti-mainland views. 

Furthermore, Hong Kong’s sluggish economy and widening gap between the rich and the poor have piled more pressure on young people. For example, it is hard to purchase an apartment, competition over employment is getting fiercer, the number of opportunities and odds of success are declining.

The development of the economy and education on the Chinese mainland has rapidly boosted the competition of mainland graduates. When they seek jobs in Hong Kong, local people tend to feel the pressure. Some young Hongkongers believe that people from the mainland have usurped their resources, opportunities and hope to drive them out of the city.

The two aspects mentioned above have led to young people’s discontent with the current system. These people attribute their fear of the future to the political system – They argue that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government is not appointed by one-person, one-vote general election.

Public anger and resentment in Hong Kong must be defused. Otherwise, this group of young people will become a lost generation.

To begin with, the education system in Hong Kong should be upgraded. Education on patriotism should be included in the syllabus. Young Hongkongers should be aware of China’s advances in economy, society and system. When these young people establish a proper view of the country, their resentment will evaporate. 

Some people worry that education that attaches importance to patriotism will be counterproductive. But it depends on the method of education. Patriotism should now be instilled in the youths through simple and effective methods. Methods of teaching patriotism should be reviewed and updated according to the Hong Kong youth’s characteristics.

Moreover, young Hongkongers should objectively recognize the transition in the city. While China opens up to the world, Hong Kong’s importance as a hub has relatively declined, so have the city’s profits. Therefore, Hongkongers should have the vision to seek development beyond the city. Their future should integrate with China’s development, such as with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

The central government needs to provide more opportunities for the youths to pursue a career beyond Hong Kong, including recruiting highly ambitious Hong Kong youth to the national administrative system.

The SAR government should conduct a general survey on the situation and aspirations of all sectors in Hong Kong and change the administrative philosophy on positive non-interventionism, seeking to resolve the problems of the public. For example, the SAR government can adjust its policy on real estate and public housing, increase guarantee for the youths and strive for more development space for Hong Kong by cooperating with other cities in the Greater Bay Area. 

The author is associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing and member of Beijing-based Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.