Thursday, June 18, 2009

Be sure to insert your earplugs before listening to the people

A few days ago the government held a "consultation session" with the people of Mui Wo on Lantau Island, supposedly to hear their views on the proposal to allocate a vacant school building in Mui Wo for use by a special school for the rehabilitation of teenagers with drug problems. As it turned out, local sentiment was overwhelmingly against the proposal.

In the few days since then, a series of senior government oficials have made speeches pleading with the islanders to be more understanding of the need for the school, and to accept the proposal. This proces culminated in the Chief Executive himself reiterating this appeal.

Seceral interesting points emerge from this series of events. Firstly, it is obvious that the government has already made up its mind to push the proposal through, and is unwilling to listen seroiously to any opposing viewpoint. In that case, why hold a sham "public consultation" if they had no intention of listening to counter-arguments by the Mui Wo residents in the first place?

Secondly, as I understand it from media reports, the main objection by most islanders is not to the proposal as such, but that they feel (quite reasonably) that any vacant school on the island should be allocated to their own children, who now have to make the long ferry journey to Hong Kong every day to attend classes. The government has apparently given them no answer on this point.

While no reasonable person would deny that teenagers with drug problems need help, the government's rush to move them to this school does not appear to be part of any coherent long term educational planning process. Rather, I suspect it is a panic reaction to several well-piblicised recent cases of young people being found under the influence of drugs in public places, together with pres stories of drug use in leading local chools. The governmen wants to be seen doing something positive quickly about this situation, however ill thought out their response may be.

When are we going to get a government that actually listens to the public, and places long term planning above short term PR exercises?

1 comment:

Gweipo said...

no, no more schools, come on, they'd just have to close them down if anyone sneezed.
Let's rather just keep social problems out of sight and out of mind and definitely not taking up places in prestigious secondary schools.
Especially now civil servant's education allowance has been cut and they can't send their darlings to the UK to be educated anymore.