Hong Kong: No to Drug Tests! No to the Government!

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The Hong Kong government’s planned introduction of drug tests in schools is an attack on youth and on civil liberties. The Hong Kong government wants to introduce random drug tests in secondary schools, to cut drug use among youngsters it claims. A pilot scheme will be introduced next month in Tai Po, before the scheme is extended citywide. On Sunday 8 November, at 11.30 am, school students and supporters will demonstrate in Chater Garden, Central, against the introduction of drug tests. The following is our view on this issue.

The government’s planned introduction of drug tests in schools is an attack on youth and on civil liberties. Young people are being portrayed as the problem – in reality they are victims of government policy, which is pro-big business and anti-youth. The issue of drug use is a complex social problem – not one that can be solved by limiting the freedom and rights of students. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s government is not motivated by genuine concern for young people or the school environment. The drug-test plan is little more than a populist trick, another attempt to repair Tsang’s collapsed support – he is now as unpopular as Tung Chee-hwa (who was run out of office).

The situation for youth in Hong Kong is increasingly bleak. More than one in four under-25s are unemployed. Many of those in work are stuck in dead-end, low-paid jobs. Most young people haven’t got a chance of affording their own apartment – especially now with billionaire speculators hi-jacking the housing market. A cinema ticket costs 65 HKD ($8.40 in U.S. dollars), which is more than three hours’ labour at a fast-food restaurant – or two hours’ with a student discount. Entrance to a pop concert costs more than a day’s labour! Youth at school face incredible pressures compared to a generation ago, and school resources have suffered cuts, with teachers working long hours (70 hours a week in many cases) and often unable to give students the attention they need. This is the result of government policy – which seeks to squeeze profit out of everything and to hell with those who can’t afford to pay!

Some young people seek an “escape” from these realities in the form of drugs, or other potentially self-destructive behaviour such as excessive online gaming etc. Young women are especially vulnerable because of the discrimination they face in capitalist society. Sexist advertisements exploit women’s bodies to sell everything from cars to phones. The distorted image of women presented by the capitalist fashion industry leads many especially young women to suffer psychological problems and dissatisfaction with the way they look. Ketamine use among teenage girls has been linked to a desire to lose weight (this drug suppresses the appetite). This is just one example of how capitalist greed and this government’s policies are sabotaging the younger generation’s future and possibilities to develop. The pressures also of course affect parents of school-aged youngsters. Some misguided parents are reportedly hiring private detectives at 3,000 HKD ($387) per day to spy on their children in case they are doing drugs. The government has helped create this hysteria with its anti-youth line.

Youth are not the problem – they are the solution! It is not surprising Donald Tsang wants to scapegoat young people as an unruly lot who are all potential drug-takers… His government is increasingly in crisis, lacking support, and facing major challenges over its economic blunders, the global crisis, and its refusal to allow truly democratic elections. Young people will be in the forefront of the fight back against Tsang and his capitalist system.

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) supports the campaign against school drug tests. We stand for defence of the personal liberties and democratic rights of young people. Where these police methods have been introduced in other countries such as the USA, they have not solved the problem. Even if the government says its new scheme will be “voluntary”, it’s clear that a refusal to cooperate will be treated with suspicion – the young person can be marked as a “trouble-maker”. Many youth will be put through terrible anguish. This scheme must be completely rejected. NO SCHOOL DRUG TESTS!

The government is counting on a lack of public information to rush through its scheme. Teachers are not being informed, and while many, wrongly, believe the tests will help, they are anxious about the damage this will do to teacher-pupil relations and also, who will do the extra work?

To win this struggle action committees against the tests must be built in every school. They should appeal for support from teachers and other school personnel. The students’ unions should be built into mass organisations. The idea of a one-day Hong Kong-wide school strike against the tests should be taken up, to pull these committees and students unions together as a strong force. A local strike could be planned as a first step, in one district, even as a partial half-day strike to establish an example. In many other countries school students and students have exercised a big influence – and stopped some government attacks – by striking and even occupying their schools. This is the case in Austria today (50,000 university students marched against fees and marketisation) and in Greece last year. In the USA, thousands of secondary students have staged walk-outs to protest against army recruitment in schools for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government are not the only people who can copy and learn from other countries – except we need to learn from grassroots’ struggle.

The CWI is a socialist organisation based in 40-plus countries, fighting for another world, a democratic socialist world. Our international connectivity allows us to get lessons from mass struggle in one part of the world and share these with others to strengthen the struggle and build a grassroots working class alternative to capitalism and its police-state methods!