Above are students of Christian Zheng Sheng College in Hong Kong, a high school that offers rehabilitation services for local youths. The school was founded 15 years ago in a remote island. Despite the lack of resources, the school has helped numerous youths to kick their habit (with a success rate of 98%) and it's well-known to the public. The school has no government funding and parents have to pay expensive fees. Its current campus, with a capacity for about 30, is home to 121 students and teachers, some of whom sleep along the corridors. The students are often prey to insects or even snakes, and there're occasional landslides in the area during rainy season.
Two years ago the school lodged an application to relocation to a deserted school site in another island named Mui Wo. In the meantime, the local council supposedly discussed with the Education Bureau about opening a new school - an international school, or an institute that runs joint programmes with mainland universities. For unknown reasons, the government has not conducted a proper consultation about the proposed move of Zheng Sheng college with the Mui Wo council or residents, or promoted the plan among the general public to rally support. Nor has it publicized any talks with the Mui Wo council about the possibility of a new school. Everyone was -- at least seemingly - left in the dark.
Last night there was a meeting between Zheng Sheng college and Mui Wo residents, where angry folks from all age groups - grandmothers, middle-aged parents, enthusiastic teenagers and small children - raised their signs and banners, shouting opposition against the students on rehab. Their rationale was the government should first attend to the needs of local students, when they have to commute four hours a day to go to schools in the city. That the proposed site is 'too close' to the residents, hotels and entertainment--the young souls will get distracted.
All this would have been perfectly understandable, if not for the uncivilized reaction of some of the residents present last night. When the young students entered the venue, they were booed all the way, "Drug addicts! Drug addicts!" The school principal's speech was disrupted by children protesters rushing towards him, surrounding him in front of the camera, no doubt under the instructions of their parents or senior. A woman even said the government was sending a 'huge tumor' into their island. To follow up on their display of anger, a group of Mui Wo residents rallied to the government office this afternoon in protest of the relocation plans.
According to legislator Cheung Man-kwong, who represents the education sector, there was no opposition to closing the local high school in Mui Wo years ago. Neither has there been any application for founding a new school in the original site--not then, not now. I do not know if Cheung's statements are true since I haven't investigated. And, if Mui Wo residents have negotiated with the government about founding a new school, I, as a member of the public, have been uninformed by official sources or media coverage.
One thing I know: when I read about what happened and saw the above two pictures, I had tears in my eyes as if someone was shouting abuse at me. On whatever ground are the residents opposed to the move, they have no rights to shout at a group of underage students. Young students quietly walking into the stadium, with burden of their past and present discrimination. Young students enrolled in a special school for rehab, studying, learning, making efforts to live a normal, healthy life. These are 15, 16 year-old kids - 13 even - vulnerable souls who cannot always tell right from wrong, or have the strength to follow the right paths. And, would they have been where they were last night, if they had been well taken care of and supervised by their families?
Did Mui Wo residents forget all this? Did they not, for one second, think of the struggles kids can live through, especially if they come from under-privileged background? Or did they all come from happy places and have lived carefree existence, and are blind to the obstacles and trials that stand in others' lives? What gives them the right to set moral standards, to judge, to throw stones--to spit in these kids' faces, to mercilessly hurt their feelings? It's one thing to raise your reasons and opposition in a public consultation, and quite another to attack your opponents and delight in their pain. It's a matter of the heart, of respect for another person's humanity. What have the students done to deserve their malice?
To the Mui Wo residents present at the consultation last night, I have two more questions for you:
1) When is it acceptable to teach your children to mob? To go up to the stage with slogans, to stop a civilized, rational discussion--to mobilize, overwhelm, destroy your opponent's stance?
2) When you practice your civil rights of rally, will you also show us that you have a sense of responsibility as Hong Kong citizens, that you will take the society's well-being into consideration when you act? Will you leave room for negotiation, for resolution of a matter that concerns the HK public? Will you also respect the rights of this charity, a Christian association that has applied for the school's relocation, an institute working to improve the well-being of its members so as to contribute to the society?