Thousands of miles from China, noting protests

Exchange student views events in Hong Kong from afar


Cathedran file photo

Junior Bill Zhang studies in the counseling center after school on Sept. 24.

Andrew de las Alas, Reporter

Chinese exchange students attending school here have a unique perspective on the political situation currently taking place in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has had a long history of autonomy. For more than 150 years, the city was a British territory, won as a concession in the Opium Wars. The city has absorbed many British customs: tea, the English language, laws and Western concepts of what a government can, cannot and should do.

An agreement was made after the handoff in 1997 that Hong Kong would retain a degree of autonomy under the One country, Two Systems policy until 2047. The city has maintained a distinctly Western philosophy, obstructions of justice and violations of the democratic perceptions are taken seriously. 

The new bill is particularly controversial as many internal and external observers noted that this would grant legal power that could be manipulated to intern activists and political dissenters.  

Over the summer, Hong Kongers have been living in the midst of a tumultuous time. Years of tension have boiled over through the introduction of an extradition, which would allow for the transfer of fugitives to the mainland, the People’s Republic of China. 

Protests have continued from March up until now, ramping up this summer. Scenes of unprecedented numbers of people clogging the streets have cropped up on national news feeds, and personal reports of ever-growing chaotic violence flow from the city’s social media users. 

Police crackdowns appear imminent and Chinese media have displayed timely images of law enforcement decked out in military grade gear. Reports of major police brutality are not uncommon and echo other activist movements in the last few years, like in the Middle East and periodically violent discourse between different protest groups, like in Europe and the United States. 

Junior Bill Zhang is an exchange student from Shanghai, a major city in the north. He said that he has heard about the protests from “all kinds of apps.” 

Zhang said that “it seems like if Beijing doesn’t make any concessions, the riots may continue.” The idea that the tension and riots may overflow is a near global fear, especially given the financial significance of Hong Kong in relation to the rest of mainland China. “It just depends on what China will do,” said Zhang. 

He said he hopes that many of these young protestors can come to a middle ground conclusion, between democratic and communist ideologies. Zhang said, “Don’t be so radical. Sit down and talk.”

Several other Chinese exchange students were contacted and declined an interview.