"My Reflections on May Fourth to the Youths" by the Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower,Mrs Fanny Law
For Chinese, the Fourth of May is a day of commemoration and reflection. The May Fourth Movement was a patriotic student movement that had a far-reaching impact on modern Chinese history. It was on 4 May, 1919, starting at Beijing University, that a large-scale student patriotic movement was born, later spreading throughout the country. Amid political, social and cultural upheaval, students came to realise the inseparable ties between the individual and the nation. As the students debated the future development of the nation, they called for the promotion of democracy (Mr Democracy or De Xian Sheng) and science (Mr Science or Sai Xian Sheng) for national salvation. The political, social and cultural reforms that followed owed much to the inspiration of the May Fourth Movement. To commemorate that eventful day of youthful enlightenment, our country named it "May Fourth Youth Day".
May Fourth signifies the spirit of national awakening and self-reliance in modern Chinese history. It also marks the significant role played by China's youth in promoting the development of the country and its economy. Eighty-four years later, the spirit of May Fourth still shines for today's youth. In the context of the current outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Hong Kong, the patriotism of the May Fourth students, their sense of responsibility and commitment to the nation, the democratic participation stressed by Mr Democracy and the pursuit of truth stressed by Mr Science offer significant lessons for today's youth:
1. Civic responsibility: the strength of May Fourth stems from the students' commitment to reform. Out of that commitment, they came to understand the individual's social responsibility and the need to sacrifice individual interests to the national interest. What emerged was a spirit of national self-reliance. Today, as Hong Kong people face the threat of SARS, we are in a similar situation. The SARS virus is our common enemy. It is imperative to establish social consensus and solidarity to combat this infectious disease. All Hong Kong citizens need to take the initiative to shoulder our civic responsibilities, such as maintaining good personal hygiene, caring for the less fortunate, and showing our appreciation of others' efforts. By being "pioneers in exercising civic responsibility", students can take the lead and put into practice their commitment to the community and to enhancing social solidarity.
2. Territory-wide participation: Currently, awareness of the need to fight SARS is on the rise in our community. Everyone understands that to safeguard life, we all must shoulder the responsibility for SARS prevention. We should attach importance to personal hygiene, wash our hands frequently, wear a face mask and take care of our health to maintain good physical immunity. In so doing, we can keep ourselves from being burdens on health-care employees. In times of misfortune, citizens need to take the initiative to care for others and support the selfless efforts of medical staff and other workers who are battling the disease. In so doing, we generate strength to combat SARS as well as a positive attitude to life so that we will prevail over this challenge.
3. Pursuing truth: In their persistent research to come to grips with the SARS virus, the medical community displays the spirit of Mr Science and the perseverance of the Chinese.
The May Fourth Movement represents an era of Chinese history. Undoubtedly, SARS will also become an important chapter in our history books. This year, in addition to remembering and appreciating the bravery and commitment of our predecessors who assumed the well-being of the nation as their responsibility, we should reflect on whether we have fulfilled our duty in the face of the SARS outbreak.
I believe that in this crisis, today's youth have shown the spirit of commitment, responsibility, participation and pursuit of truth and life-long learning. Their behaviour has reinforced our society's solidarity. In times like these, we can develop positive values and reflect on our roles in society while participating in the territory-wide fight against SARS. It is clear that our young people have noble sentiments. Their participation and enthusiasm are the foundation for building Hong Kong and strengthening our country.
The SARS crisis will eventually pass, but other social crises and personal challenges will emerge. We should not forget the May Fourth spirit. We should face future challenges with that same spirit of perseverance, commitment, active participation, and the pursuit of truth. That is the road to progress.
Sunday, May 4, 2003