19 things we learned at the Aiesec Youth to Sustainability Summit 2017 in Hong Kong

19 things we learned at the Aiesec Youth to Sustainability Summit 2017 in Hong Kong

From staying optimistic to death as the great equaliser, here's what we learned at the Youth Speak Forum

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Photo: AIESEC in Hong Kong

The Youth to Sustainability Summit 2017 is a four-day event organised by Aiesec, a global youth-run network that helps its members develop their leadership potential. The summit aims to connect youth with current leaders from different fields to inspire them to become action-driven members of society. Young Post attended the Youth Speak Forum which served as part of the opening events and came away with these 19 key points.

1. Pessimism of youth towards Hong Kong’s future

Henry Lee, the president of Aiesec in Hong Kong, shared with us the result of the survey conducted by the network from April to May this year. Youths aged 16-24 rated the current state of Hong Kong at 5.51 out of 10 and projected the rating to drop to 4.94 out of 10 by 2030. So basically, our young people are pretty pessimistic about the future of our city.

2. The importance of optimism and having a dream

But Dr Allan Zeman, entrepreneur and formerly chairman of Ocean Park, told us not to worry. He said, “I started my business at the age of 19 and I was a dreamer with a can-do spirit. Nothing is going to change by worrying about it, instead try to think out of the box and make things change yourself.”

3. Most of my dreams are nightmares

Who said the head of Legco had to be sombre and humourless? Former Legco President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing followed up on Zeman’s point about dreaming by quipping, “Allan spoke of dreaming, but when I dream, I usually just have nightmares!” That came out of nowhere but you can’t say he doesn’t have a sense of humour, can you?

4.The key to success

Zeman shared his experiences with turning Ocean Park around and building Lan Kwai Fong from scratch. “Ocean Park was falling apart and Lan Kwai Fong was just a back street. My approach wasn’t to ask what they are, but what they could be. That’s how you bring out the potential of something and hopefully that will be what our young leaders will do in the future.”


Hong Kong leaders fail to impress at Youth Speak Forum


5. Pessimism is a great sign

Although Zeman says that pessimism is bad, Tsang says otherwise. He noted, “Pessimism simply shows that our youth are aware of these problems in our society. Having an awareness means that they want to find a solution to them.” Citing the survey result that says 56.48 per cent of teens actually think they can change Hong Kong to be a better city, he says he’s confident that youths will make an impact.

6. Embracing technology and the future

“Technology is bringing huge changes to society and Hong Kong lacks development in technology. The future of Hong Kong lies in technology,” Zeman said. He raised the example of Wechat Pay in China to prove that technology is advancing rapidly in many other cities around the world. He even thinks that Shenzhen is racing ahead of Silicon Valley in technological advancements. As an American citizen, however, journalist and TV host Michael Chugani was swift to dismiss this!

7. Don’t fear China

Zeman said, “Don’t listen to the people blindly saying China is evil.” Although many youngsters may disagree with him, he thinks that the future of Hong Kong lies in close cooperation with China which will bring forth many opportunities for Hong Kong.

8. Death is the greatest equaliser

This has got to be the most reassuring thing I have heard this year. Think you will never be as rich as Li Ka-shing? Now know that Li and his driver are going to end up in the same place when they die: buried in the ground. Well, at least that’s what Zeman said. Rest assured because death is the greatest equaliser! But he did bring up the point that since you are going to die one way or another, why not dream big and be positive, and make the most out of your life?


A chat with Lau Ming-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong's Commission on Youth


9. E-certificates of appreciation

Tokens of appreciation, certificates, photos with guests, blah blah blah. They are supposed to be boring, right? Not when you present your guests with e-certificates of appreciation on an iPad powered by Microsoft! No trees were killed in the making of thses certificate, don’t worry! Plus, Dr Zeman, you are right, technology is the future!

10. Procrastinating and being single

When the young delegates at the summit were asked what troubles they face, one said “Chut pool” (出pool), a phrase which means finding a romantic partner, and another said procrastination. Well, those are legitimate concerns, but in the survey by Aiesec, the issues students are most concerned about were actually high property prices and the China-Hong Kong conflict.

11. Michael Chugani looking for an apartment

Speaking of high property prices, Chugani openly admitted that he was in fact temporarily looking for a flat to live in. He also joked about having been forced to move out of his old apartment because of the music in Lan Kwai Fong all thanks to Zeman. But the problem of the housing shortage really is a legitimate concern.

12. Solving the housing shortage - “ding” houses and brown fields

Zeman said that the problem of the housing shortage is due to the accumulation of land by the four large developers of Hong Kong. “Hong Kong has enough land but we just aren’t making good use of it.” He suggested stopping the right to build “ding” houses for indigenous males in the New Territories villages, and allowing residential properties to be built on brown fields as first steps.


HK youth warned off ideas about separatism


13. The six young people in Hong Kong who will become future billionaires

Chugani asked Zeman if Hong Kong had such a prospective future - when was the last time we produced a Li Ka-shing? Zeman revealed that he knows of six young people in the tech field who will become billionaires within the next few months. A very exciting revelation, but that is as much as we know. Who are these six young people that he spoke of? Maybe we should wait and see.

14. Youngsters taking things for granted

Youngsters have been living in comfort for many years of their lives and they have simply taken everything for granted, said Tsang. “Due to the high expectation young people have from the past, they are likely to be unsatisfied with what is to come,” he explained.

15. Making one million by age 19

Zeman revealed that by the age of 19, he had already made his first one million US dollars. (That’s my goal for my 19th birthday by the way.) But when the delegates, who were mostly 17-19, were asked by Chugani to raise their hands if they thought they could achieve that milestone, no one dared to raise their hand.

16. Follow Nike's slogan

Everyone should be familiar with the slogan of Nike: Just do it! Zeman said, “Follow Nike, just do it!” He was insistent that although youngsters nowadays may not be confident of making a great impact, if they dream big and remain positive, they will eventually make it. “Simply carry on without worrying.”


Junior reporters found out about Hong Kong's housing crisis and how the other half live


17. Jasper Tsang giving tuition

Once Zeman’s story of success had put all of us youngsters to shame, Tsang shared his own tale. At the age of 19, he was finished with his public exams and started tutoring a young boy, making HK$400 per month. Although he started at the bottom, he eventually managed to climb up the ladder.

18. Addressing youth issues

Henry Lee said, “The former administrations have not been able to fully tackle youth issues by pouring in financial resources.” He does hope that CE-elect Carrie Lam Tsang Yuet-ngor will be able to address these issues and respond to what the youngsters of the future need. All in all, there are still high hopes for the future.

19. Youth for change

Pretty much the vision of Aiesec, but that’s what all the guests have for our youth. All of them believe that the youngsters and the delegates who represent the future will bring about a larger and greater impact on Hong Kong, an even larger influence than they themselves can bring. There’s still hope!

Edited by Jamie Lam

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