Social justice can come in many forms

Social justice can come in many forms

Human rights, sustainable development and climate change were all on the agenda as four YP junior reporters joined discussions at an annual forum for students

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Junior reporters and students take part in discussions at the Global Elites Forum 2011 where they tackled thorny issues of social justice and environmental protection at several lectures
Junior reporters and students take part in discussions at the Global Elites Forum 2011 where they tackled thorny issues of social justice and environmental protection at several lectures
Photo: Alex Chan
The Global Elites Forum is an event organised by Roundtable Community for students interested in cultural and social issues. This year's programme included four seminars on human rights, natural disasters, economic success and the role of government and law.

Forum 1 - Different Perspectives on Human Rights

The Forum kicked off with a discussion led by lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan about different interpretations of human rights and democracy. Ho remarked that the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a complicated document, but the challenges lie in putting it into practice.

"Human rights are not thoroughly understood in Hong Kong," she said. "Negative rights [that allow or oblige inaction] are protected but not positive rights [that allow or oblige action]."

She said that the essence of human rights was the age-old golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

Forum 2 - Natural Disasters

Some people blame nature; others blame God. Instead, we should often blame ourselves. The next lecture said that we are responsible for many natural disasters.

It was presented by Greenpeace campaigner Prentice Koo Wai-muk and The Professional Commons chairman Albert Lai Kwong-tak. They both have lots of experience in environmental issues. They told us that the effects of climate change are already being felt worldwide.

On the mainland, for example, extreme droughts in Guangxi were followed by floods in Hubei. Damaging changes are happening fast.

They urged people to act before it is too late. We can all do our bit to help nature - perhaps by eating less meat or driving less often.

Forum 3 - Economic Success and Social Injustice

This two-hour seminar asked whether economic progress is in conflict with environmental protection.

The first speaker, a finance expert, noted that, on the Global Human Development Index, which is an indicator of quality of life, Hong Kong ranks 21st. Topping the list is Iceland.

The expert said that prosperity often comes with costs: environmental damage, cultural invasion and widening wealth gaps. Sustainable development is vital if we are to preserve our environment and culture.

Forum 4 - Rights, Freedom and Justice

"If there were greater openness, fairness and transparency in our government, if people respected the ideas of human rights and were a bit more motivated to work out their obligations in their communities, there would be no more injustice, only unity and solidarity," lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said in his lecture.

Tong said political leaders should be sincere, righteous and persistent. They should uphold democracy and refuse to be deterred by setbacks.

We felt moved by his zeal and calls for more involvement in social affairs. He helped us realise that it is important that we teenagers, too, be engaged socially and politically.

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