The protests in Hong Kong reflect the frustration that young people feel over the current state of affairs and their demand for an equitable redistribution of resources, a sentiment shared by young people across the world, former Academia Sinica president Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) said in an exclusive interview with the Central News Agency.
Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central” movement may be a protest for universal suffrage, but it also has a deeper meaning, as it shows how young people are stepping up to fight for what they believe is “fair and reasonable,” Lee said.
The Chinese economy is booming, but the masses — especially the younger generation — do not feel it, Lee said.
Not only are the young not reaping the benefits of this economic boom, but they are the ones who suffer the consequences of the nation’s runaway growth, including pollution and soaring real-estate prices, he said.
This sense of frustration has found common ground among young people across the world, the Nobel laureate said, citing the student-led Sunflower movement in Taiwan and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US as examples.
Sunflower movement protesters occupied the Legislative Yuan in Taipei from March 18 to April 10 to voice their objection to the government’s handling of the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement. Occupy Wall Street was a protest against social and economic inequality.
Governments worldwide have failed to promote sustained socioeconomic development, and despite rapid technological advances, the younger generation are left wanting.
Many of them are thinking that “this is not the future we want,” Lee said.
Uneven resource distribution has given the rich control over the media and the power to sway election results, or support scientists to endorse their policies, such as that the “greenhouse effect” is false, Lee said.
Globalization has benefitted individuals whose reach expands across the globe, but those who choose to remain and work in their own countries have not shared in the gains, he said.
Sustainable development should serve as the basis for formulating future development policies, Lee said.
The amount of concrete that China used for its development over the past few years is equivalent to that the US in the course of a century, he said.
That led to soaring carbon emissions, which have affected ordinary citizens, he said.
Beijing residents have not enjoyed the fruit of this economic boom, but they have already been deprived of clean air, he added.
Overpopulation is straining the world’s resources, and the young are worried that they might have no future, Lee said.
Separately, Lee also suggested that Taiwan adjust its industrial policies to benefit posterity.
Taiwan developed its petrochemical industry to create domestic jobs, but the industry is slowly shifting toward exporting all its products while retaining its waste, Lee said.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was awarded the Tang Prize for Sustained Development this year, has said she is puzzled at Taiwan’s insistence on expanding its petrochemical industry although it is not a producer of crude oil, Lee said.
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