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S for S speech at Youth Forum

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Following is the full text of speech by the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, at the Youth Forum of the Youth Leadership Development Programme organised by the Hong Kong Young Men's Christian Association today (March 9):

Mr (Benjamin) Lam, Mr (John) Snelgrove, Mr (Douglas) Oxley, Mr (James) Tsang, Ms (Alice) Yuk, Principals, Teachers and Students,

First of all, I would like to thank the Hong Kong Young Men's Christian Association for inviting me to today's Youth Forum. This is the first time I attend a function of this kind, i.e. to have dialogue with young people. Since the objective of this forum is to discuss how young people could face up to the challenges of the times and adhere to their own beliefs, I am not going to talk about security but would rather share with you my views on the question of values.

At present Hong Kong seems to be beleaguered by numerous obstacles and faced with lots of problems. Without doubt, our economy poses the biggest problem, but I believe the fundamental issues that need to be resolved are those of confidence and values.

From my personal experience and observations, the values of our society mainly come from two sources.

Firstly, there are the Confucian values. Confucianism in China has a history of several thousand years. It has profound influence on the morality of Chinese societies and serves as norms by which human relationship is bound. To put it simply, the essence of Confucian values can be summed up by the word "", variously translated as "benevolence" or "true virtue". In Confucianism, "" represents the zenith of the quest for a perfect life and perfect society. One way of attaining the state of "benevolence" or "true virtue" is by studying in the pursuit of knowledge or so called "polite studies" (Ǥ). Nevertheless, "polite studies" is not as important as the "cultivation of moral integrity"(r) , which means "attaining moral integrity through self-discipline and adherence to morality". In modern language, it refers to the cultivation of conduct and manifestation of the bright side of human nature. To put it into practice in daily life, one's conduct must be guided by good moral standards. Thus Zixia said, "If a man who draws his mind from the love of beauty, and applies it as sincerely to the love of the virtuous; if, in serving his parents, he can exert his utmost strength; if, in serving his prince, he can devote his life; if, in his intercourse with his friends, his words are sincere: -- although men say that he has not learned, I will certainly say that he has". (translation based on the English version of the Confucian Analects published by the Hunan Publishing House 1992.)

As Confucianism has been the mainstream ideology in our country for thousands of years, the concept of "filial piety, fraternal duty, loyalty and truthfulness" is deep-rooted in local and overseas Chinese communities. Take my mother as an example. Although she grew up in the war years and did not have the chance to receive much education, her passion for her family and her urge to fulfill filial duties exemplify the influence of Confucianism. My strong sense of responsibility may be considered a continuation of the influence of Confucianism because it has been developed since I was a small child when I witnessed my mother's commitment to her family. I believe many people of the older generation in Hong Kong have also been influenced by Confucianism. They have a strong sense of responsibility towards their country and family.

Another ideology affecting our values is Christianity, imported from the West in the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty.

In the New Testament, it is stated that God loves man and in order to save man, he sent his one and only son into the world and eventually sacrificed his life to save us.

Christian values are based on the relationship between man and God. The harmonious relationship between man and God is built on Jesus Christ's sacrifice of his life to save man. Therefore, the values manifested in the New Testament are redemption, love, forgiveness and humility. The Beatitudes preached by Jesus Christ in his teachings on the mountain and recorded in Matthew Chapter 5 are a portrayal of these values. When translated into principles for establishing human relationship in the secular world, Christianity also preaches good relationship among family members. For instance, children should obey and honour their parents; parents should not exasperate their children i.e. they should not have dispute with their children, but should bring them up in accordance with the teachings and instructions of the Lord.

Apart from the influence of Confucianism, I am strongly influenced by Christianity. It is because I had studied in an Anglican school for 15 years. As a child, I attended morning assemblies and activities of our schoold's Christian Union. My school's motto is "In faith go forward". Therefore, my behaviour and beliefs are deeply influenced by Christian values.

Hong Kong and Western societies are currently faced with very much the same problem, i.e. traditional religions now have diminished influence on society. Although some people have followed "new religious movements", there is a vacuum in many people's life as far as values are concerned. Perhaps with the much greater ease of travel of modern society, family members are often dispersed by the need to work, study or emigrate. Also, there are more divorces and single-parent families, and the relationship between parents and children is not as close as before. Under such circumstances, it is too difficult and too demanding to follow the set of high moral standards of Confucianism and be "filial, respectful to the elders, loyal and truthful". With the influence of Confucian values and traditional religions on the decline, a spiritual vacuum exists in many families who do not have religious beliefs.

This phenomenon exists also in the United States. Consequently, Dr. Benjamin Spock, a well-known expert who has written on problems encountered in bringing up children and young people, has suggested that parents, even if they have no religious beliefs, should instill fine spiritual values in their children, instead of focusing on material pursuits. Parents should encourage their children to be kind, honest, generous, dedicated to their families, accept responsibility for their country and society. They should have ideals and cultivate the power of appreciation of beauty. The "beauty" I am referring to is not just outward appearance, which is of great concern to young people nowadays, but something which is more solemn and involves the appreciation of literature and art.

It is my conviction that no society can become a great society if it does not have a coherent set of spiritual values. Let's take the United States, the superpower of the day, as an example. While many people are impressed by its huge military power and economic strength, few take notice of the fact that the American leaders attach great importance to advocating American values and publicizing to the world the moral grounds on which they take their diplomatic and military actions. For instance, the American military action against Afghanistan was initially named 'Operation Infinite Justice' and renamed later as 'Operation Enduring Freedom'. These names highlight the importance the US attaches to their values. Moreover, the short title of the anti-terrorism law enacted in the wake of the September 11 attacks is 'the USA Patriot Act'. Besides, in his State of the Union address delivered recently, President George W. Bush encouraged young Americans to actively participate in voluntary service by joining the USA Freedom Corps, the purpose of which is to encourage nationals to lend a hand in case of crisis at home, to rebuild the communities and "to extend American compassion throughout the world".

Dear students, the above examples have been quoted for one single purpose only, i.e. to point out that a society will not be a great one if it does not have any ideals, goals and a set of values shared by the majority. I understand that nowadays, many people, including the students, and perhaps even the teachers present today, may be more concerned about the practical problems of employment, education or negative assets. Some of you may think my proposition is too high sounding. However, I must point out that if students do not set their sights high and strive for excellence from a young age, it would be impossible for them to maintain a relatively high level of professionalism and to catch up and compete with our neighbouring cities when they grow up and join the work force. Moreover, family tragedies would continue to take place one after another if our society does not attach enough importance to inter-personal relationship and effective communication. Therefore, the cultivation of fine spiritual values is indeed the first step towards reversing the adversity faced by Hong Kong and enhancing its competitiveness in the long run.

Thank you.

END/Saturday, March 9, 2002

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