With Soaring Suicide Rate, a Student Bemoans the Fading of Hong Kong

“The Bauhinia withers, dusk settles, as it awaits—through the darkest night—the dawn that comes for certain in the future—those some other days, where it once had, once treasured, and once prospered.”This is a poem in English titled “Worth a Toast.” The “Bauhinia” here is a synonym for Hong Kong. In a few lines, it depicts the reality of Hong Kong’s past and present. It was written by Alex Lam (pseudonym), a 15-year-old boy who was a secondary school student in Hong Kong until the summer vacation. Just a month ago, he left Hong Kong to continue his studies overseas. After learning that a student three years younger than him at his school in Hong Kong had committed suicide, he composed this poem out of grief and anger.In November, it was reported that 37 schoolchildren in Hong Kong had committed suicide this year. 306 Schoolchildren Attempted Suicide from January to November The HKJC Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at HKU quoted police figures on Nov. 16, stating that 306 suicide cases among schoolchildren have been recorded since the beginning of 2023, of which 37 were fatal, and the rest attempted suicide. Further analysis shows that the causes of suicide among schoolchildren are school-related (37.3 percent), family-related (28.8 percent), and mental health-related (18.3 percent). Girls account for 70 percent of the cases, while May and October are high-risk months.According to another survey released by the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on November 29, 3.9 percent of the respondents had had suicidal ideation during the past year.According to the same survey findings, 24.4 percent of the respondents suffered from at least one count of mental disorder in the past year at the time of the interview, and about half of them suffered from two or more mental illnesses at the same time. The relevant survey was conducted between 2019 and 2023, with a total of 6,082 school children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 being interviewed. The CUHK team described the problem of suicide ideation among schoolchildren as just “the tip of the iceberg.” Chip Tsao, an eminent Hong Kong current affairs commentator now residing in the UK, made the mocking remark that Hong Kong has become the “student suicide port of Asia.” Responses from Government and Research Institutions According to the CUHK research team, common risk factors faced by adolescents can be divided into three broad categories, including parents with clinically significant emotional distress, children and adolescents with sleep disorders themselves, and academic difficulties (such as repeating a grade, school suspension, or absenteeism). On the other hand, non-ethnic Chinese adolescents are found to have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders.Mr. Wong Yan-lung, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Mental Health, suggested that schools should “put children’s mental health first” and relieve the burden on learning progress.Related StoriesDr. Hung Se-fong, a member of the Advisory Committee on Mental Health, and Clinical Professor (Honorary) of the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, CUHK, also believes that schools should prioritize the mental health and resilience of students, rather than prioritizing just academic performance.Mr. Chan Ying-kit, Supervising Officer at the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, believes that the steep rise in the number of suicide cases among schoolchildren in recent months may be related to the return to normal life post-pandemic, and calls on parents and schools to allow students a bit more breathing space.However, none of the groups had provided specific reasons for the spike in numbers. Repressive Environment and Lack of Candid Communication Whether or not it is the “return to normal” or some other reasons, in one letter to his mother, Alex gave his view on why students resort to giving up their lives as mental stress outweighs the pressure from studies alone, with the former coming from comparison and competition among peer groups or may even involve other deep-rooted conflicts within the Hong Kong society:“Education policies continue to rot year after year, and textbooks are filled with plenty of CCP rhetoric.” When Alex was in Hong Kong, he complained to his mother that textbooks were increasingly filled with CCP lies.The three main publishing conglomerates in Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, Chung Hwa Book Company, and Commercial Press, and many bookstores and publishing houses are owned or controlled by either Chinese enterprises or “patriotic merchants.” The local CCP Liaison Office fully controls the three main publishers through the United Publishing Group. In other words, most, if not all, textbook publishers in Hong Kong have the local CCP Liaison Office as their ultimate boss.After the implementation of the National Security Law (NSL), one teacher at Alex’s school was anonymously reported for his remarks in class and was criticized on the front page by

With Soaring Suicide Rate, a Student Bemoans the Fading of Hong Kong

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“The Bauhinia withers, dusk settles, as it awaitsthrough the darkest nightthe dawn that comes for certain in the futurethose some other days, where it once had, once treasured, and once prospered.”

This is a poem in English titled “Worth a Toast.” The “Bauhinia” here is a synonym for Hong Kong. In a few lines, it depicts the reality of Hong Kong’s past and present. It was written by Alex Lam (pseudonym), a 15-year-old boy who was a secondary school student in Hong Kong until the summer vacation. Just a month ago, he left Hong Kong to continue his studies overseas. After learning that a student three years younger than him at his school in Hong Kong had committed suicide, he composed this poem out of grief and anger.

In November, it was reported that 37 schoolchildren in Hong Kong had committed suicide this year.

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306 Schoolchildren Attempted Suicide from January to November

The HKJC Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at HKU quoted police figures on Nov. 16, stating that 306 suicide cases among schoolchildren have been recorded since the beginning of 2023, of which 37 were fatal, and the rest attempted suicide. Further analysis shows that the causes of suicide among schoolchildren are school-related (37.3 percent), family-related (28.8 percent), and mental health-related (18.3 percent). Girls account for 70 percent of the cases, while May and October are high-risk months.

According to another survey released by the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on November 29, 3.9 percent of the respondents had had suicidal ideation during the past year.

According to the same survey findings, 24.4 percent of the respondents suffered from at least one count of mental disorder in the past year at the time of the interview, and about half of them suffered from two or more mental illnesses at the same time. The relevant survey was conducted between 2019 and 2023, with a total of 6,082 school children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 being interviewed. The CUHK team described the problem of suicide ideation among schoolchildren as just “the tip of the iceberg.” Chip Tsao, an eminent Hong Kong current affairs commentator now residing in the UK, made the mocking remark that Hong Kong has become the “student suicide port of Asia.”

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Responses from Government and Research Institutions

According to the CUHK research team, common risk factors faced by adolescents can be divided into three broad categories, including parents with clinically significant emotional distress, children and adolescents with sleep disorders themselves, and academic difficulties (such as repeating a grade, school suspension, or absenteeism). On the other hand, non-ethnic Chinese adolescents are found to have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders.

Mr. Wong Yan-lung, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Mental Health, suggested that schools should “put children’s mental health first” and relieve the burden on learning progress.

Dr. Hung Se-fong, a member of the Advisory Committee on Mental Health, and Clinical Professor (Honorary) of the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, CUHK, also believes that schools should prioritize the mental health and resilience of students, rather than prioritizing just academic performance.

Mr. Chan Ying-kit, Supervising Officer at the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, believes that the steep rise in the number of suicide cases among schoolchildren in recent months may be related to the return to normal life post-pandemic, and calls on parents and schools to allow students a bit more breathing space.

However, none of the groups had provided specific reasons for the spike in numbers.

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Repressive Environment and Lack of Candid Communication

Whether or not it is the “return to normal” or some other reasons, in one letter to his mother, Alex gave his view on why students resort to giving up their lives as mental stress outweighs the pressure from studies alone, with the former coming from comparison and competition among peer groups or may even involve other deep-rooted conflicts within the Hong Kong society:

“Education policies continue to rot year after year, and textbooks are filled with plenty of CCP rhetoric.” When Alex was in Hong Kong, he complained to his mother that textbooks were increasingly filled with CCP lies.

The three main publishing conglomerates in Hong Kong: Joint Publishing, Chung Hwa Book Company, and Commercial Press, and many bookstores and publishing houses are owned or controlled by either Chinese enterprises or “patriotic merchants.” The local CCP Liaison Office fully controls the three main publishers through the United Publishing Group. In other words, most, if not all, textbook publishers in Hong Kong have the local CCP Liaison Office as their ultimate boss.

After the implementation of the National Security Law (NSL), one teacher at Alex’s school was anonymously reported for his remarks in class and was criticized on the front page by the CCP’s mouthpiece. He believes teachers are becoming wary of being reported. Students are also not able to communicate candidly with teachers and social workers, a situation where “nobody dares to tell the truth.”

Just before the last summer vacation, Alex’s school held one session of “National Education,” during which the guest lecturer boasted that China’s military is much mightier than that of the U.S. This was the first time Alex was assigned to such a class at the school. At the closure, the students gave a round of “emphatic” applause. “I don’t know if my classmates believe it or if they are making a mockery of the guest speaker,” Alex added.

Starting this year (2023), the Hong Kong Education Bureau requires all fifth-grade students to participate in an exchange excursion to the mainland to “understand China.” After the large-scale anti-extradition movement against the CCP in Hong Kong in 2019, the CCP and its local branch put much emphasis on “educating” students to identify with the CCP regime. The teacher told Alex’s mother that even if he broke his leg, he would still need to join the exchange group to China next year, otherwise, he would not be able to graduate.

Here are some of the quotes Alex made in one of his emails to his mother, primarily on how the situation in Hong Kong has become. “….By more and more interaction with China, Hong Kong is dying through no physical means, but moral levels?” “….And would you not say that the standards of some new generations have become terribly close to those under communism’s rule?” “….Hong Kong has officially lost its importance as a place of freedom or finance or entertainment?” “……China deceived more and more with such a “bright future” it franchised to HK people, and some people buy it, not forcefully, yet eagerly from their hearts?”

In another email, he commented on the suicidal trend of Hong Kong youngsters. “Perhaps those who committed suicide are not able to stand the depraving environment….” “….What drives people into doing so? It seems plain that none of those who committed suicide had anything in common. However, all were within this depraving environment, and they were all hk people.” When a country cannot provide those basic rights, he believes that suicide would become a choice between “rather die than surrender,” Alex added.

On a similar note, Mr. Chip Tsao also lamented in his Facebook post that “New Hong Kong” lacks breathing space.

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First Crossing of Taiwan and Hong Kong Stock Indexes

While a lot of people in Hong Kong are discussing how to deal with the soaring suicide rate among Hong Kong youngsters, Hong Kong’s investor confidence is also experiencing an alarming phenomenon through the stock market.

The Taiwan and Hong Kong stock indices have shown a “golden cross (moving in opposite directions)” after 31 years, with the Taiwan stock market on an upward trend. On Nov. 29, the Hong Kong Hang Seng index was surpassed for the first time by the Taiwan Weighted Index, which was once only one-third of the former. The average daily trading volume of Hong Kong stocks in October was barely above HK$70 billion (US$9 billion), less than half of the daily turnover during the peak period in previous years.

The Hong Kong Economic Journal commented on the main reason for this “East (Taiwan) up, West (HK) down” phenomenon between the two stock markets. Hong Kong has “positioned itself as China’s international financial market with nearly 80 percent of its market capitalization coming from Chinese stocks, so it will inevitably be dragged along by the worsening Chinese economy.”

Mr. Hsieh Chin-ho, Chairperson of Taiwan Caixin Media, has also published articles in recent days, saying that the major difference between Taiwan and Hong Kong lies in “sovereignty.” Taiwan is a sovereign and a de facto independent region and can elect its president, while Hong Kong has returned from being a British colony to China. All things big and small, including political and economic freedoms, can only rely on the mood of Beijing, which, of course, will experience its precipitous decline.

Taiwanese financial practitioner Hsieh Chiar-rui also wrote in the “Liberty Times” that one of the reasons why the Taiwan Index surpassed Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index is the fully intertwined economies between Hong Kong and China.