Hong Kong

14102652_634046983429152_5499073733867122338_n

Thousands Protest Against Comments Made By Two Localists

By Paulus Choy

HONG KONG- The newly formed organisation “Against Hong Kong’s independence and the insulting of Chinese”, protested outside the Legco parliament complex yesterday, in response to two politicians’ comments during their oath-taking, with journalists caught in the cross-fire.

The organisation issued a press release saying the two has insulted the Chinese and condemned the two for spreading independence ideas in Hong Kong.

Legco members Baggio Sixtus Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching called China “Chee-na”, and displayed flags saying “Hong Kong is not China” during their oath-taking on the 12th October.

Read More: Hong Kong Government Tries To Bar Young Lawmakers From Serving In Office After They Call China “Chee-Na”

Hong Kong government has initiated legal actions against the two, pleading that both’s occupied office in Legco is to be vacated, after their court injunctions to prevent both from taking oath was rejected.

img_9798

As Leung and Yau returned yesterday attempting to redo their oaths, protesters surrounded the complex, expressing their concern against Yau and Leung’s derogatory comments, as well as their promotion independence.

The protest started at around 10 in the morning, as groups started filling up areas around the complex.

The protests included over 300 groups, ranging from concern groups, business unions and district councillors. The legco headquarters was filled with chinese and Hong Kong flags and chants condemning “anti-chinese” sentiments.

Read More: Hong Kong Is Already More Independent Than Any EU Country

A collection of people spoke during the protests, including College professors, union leaders and business figures.

WATCH: Video from the protest

The protest went on without huge confrontations, but was interspersed with a case of disturbance.

img_9791

HKFP reporter Stanley Leung had his camera taken away, when he was covering the protest according to HKFP reports. He was surrounded by protestors, and later recovered his camera, only to find his memory card stolen.

HKFP released an announcement on their facebook page, condemning acts interfering with their operation.

Photo Essay: Goodbye (For Now) To Hong Kong’s Hipster Paradise Hidden Agenda

The organisers said roughly 16 to 17 thousand people took part in the rally, according to their announcement at noon. The police said around eight thousand people took part.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Photo Credits: Henry Wong

Hong Kong Is Already More Independent Than Any EU Country

By  Raphael Blet

In a time when the call for independence constantly increases, we need to put the dots on the i’s.

There is nothing wrong with discussing independence and the right to self-determination.

What is necessary for those independence advocates and supporters is to be conscious that sovereignty isn’t the key to independence and self-determination.

I have recently met some Hong Kong people who seemed to show their admiration for the European Union but at the same time, are advocating Hong Kong’s independence.

Isn’t it ironic to admire a supranational force when you advocate self-determination for yourself?

Many Hong Kong independence advocates who have not lived in Europe might not realize that Hong Kong is in fact much more independent than France, Germany or any other EU member state.

Despite not being a sovereign territory, Hong Kong benefits from more independence compared to EU countries like France or Spain. While the Basic Law guarantees Hong Kong’s autonomy, the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon advocates supranational submission.

While Hong Kong controls its borders and trade, EU members don’t as they are mostly signatory of the Schengen agreement which does not allow them to filter humans and goods entering their territory.

At the same time, Hong Kong has an independent judiciary in which Mainland laws do not interfere while European countries have to follow what is known as ‘directives’.

Such directives coming from the two parliaments (in Brussels and Strasbourg) are imposed to the national laws.

This strongly harms the judicial integrity of member states.

This without talking about monetary sovereignty which doesn’t exist in Europe.

When Hong Kong has its own currency, most EU members are depending on a single currency on which they have no control.

Some might refute my arguments with empirical evidence and say that either the two problems are not comparable or that the EU’s constitution was ratified after consulting the people.

This isn’t a valid argument as the Treaty of Lisbon was rejected by the French (54.67%) and Dutch (61.54%) voters who were later forced to accept it despite showing their opposition in the ballots.

All the examples given are enough to assume that Hong Kong has already more autonomy and self-determination compared to EU member countries.

As a ‘European’ who is reluctant in regards to EU institutions, it is even more revolting to see some EU officials commenting about democracy and sovereignty in the world while their own institution is anything but democratic.

Unfortunately, many people will not be willing to assume this reality, their answers being as usual: ‘it’s impossible to make such comparison.’

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Bernard Spragg. NZ/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Hong Kong Government Tries To Bar Young Lawmakers From Serving In Office After They Call China “Chee-Na”

The Government of Hong Kong submitted a legal writ to a court on the island late Tuesday in an effort to bar the entry of two young pro-democracy lawmakers from taking office in the Legislative Council.

The submission of the legal challenge is seen as an escalation of the conflict that has been raging over the past weeks.

The conflict stems from the way in which Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung Chung, two elected officials from the Youngspiration movement chose to take their oaths of office.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the two young leaders referred to China as “Chee-na”, which many saw as an insult to the ruling government.

The government seeks to supersede the power of the President of the Legislative Council by refusing the two lawmakers the chance to retake their oaths and serve in the body.

Yau and Leung are both supporters of “localism” and are in opposition to the ruling government.

Read the Writ: 

 

The government’s submitted writ to the court. writ. Photo: Stand News.

The government’s submitted writ to the court. writ. Photo: Stand News.

This is a developing story. Stay with RISE NEWS. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Yau Wai Ching/ Facebook

Photo Essay: Goodbye (For Now) To Hong Kong’s Hipster Paradise Hidden Agenda

By Sing Lee

HONG KONG- Hidden Agenda, the largest performing venue dedicated to indie music in Hong Kong, is being evicted for its third time since its founding seven years ago, due to “land use abuses”.

The current 3,600-square-foot unit, which can accommodate about 300 people, is located in Ngau Tau Kok industrial district, a home to a lot of band rooms, movie production studios, churches and martial art training centers.

ha-7

ha-27

ha-23

These alternative uses of industrial buildings are violating the land lease agreements, which ban the sites from being use as any purpose other than “industrial and/or warehouse”.

Read More: There’s A Bleak Outlook For Artists And Businesses In Industrial buildings

The venus received a rectification order from the Lands Department in June this year, while they made an agreement with the landlord to move out this month.

ha-3

ha-20

ha-2

The order was based on two land lease agreements issued by the government in 1967 and 1973, when manufacturing industries was still a pillar economic sector of Hong Kong.

Industrial building users has been asking for legislative amendment on the regulations including place for public entertainment licences, fire safety regulations and land lease terms, to adapt to the change of usages as time goes by.

Read More: Hong Kong Channel ViuTV Just Suspended A Reality Show With Pro-Independence Content

Open in 2009, Hidden Agenda has been a home to shows performed by both local and international units, such as the American recording artist Toro Y Moi.

The live house’s team initialed a crowd-funding project its fourth generation in September, raising HK $517,000 in a week from the public.

ha-68

ha-54They are acquiring a food factory licence, rather than a place for public entertainment licences they failed to apply for, to operate legally as a tuck shop which provide live music for its customers.

The venue will be re-opened in December this year at its new address, while its last show for now, called “Continue to Grow”, was held on 10 October.

This photo essay records the yet final performance at what the audience called “HA 3.0”, indicating its third location, and the disassembling of the stage immediately afterwards.

Read More: How Nathan Law Is Representing A New Generation Of Leadership In Hong Kong

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Photo Credits: Sing Lee

Hong Kong Channel ViuTV Just Suspended A Reality Show With Pro-Independence Content

By Jessie Pang

Travel with Rivals, a travel reality show featuring two persons with conflicting values and perspectives, has been a highly watched programme of the newly launched ViuTV channel.

Wang Dang, a student leader of the June Fourth Massacre, and Billy Fung Jing-en, the former President of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union, was particularly criticized for his open support of HK independence movement.

They both participated in the second season of the programme in which they travelled to Japan from October 5th to 19th.

ViuTV issued a statement last night claiming that the two had met the media on their own and made inappropriate remarks, deciding to cut all footage filmed with the two “Any remarks on Hong Kong Independence is not only an insult to the dignity of our nation, but a total false hope, a farce that can never happen,” the statement reads. “We reserve all legal rights against anyone who once or will use(d) our channel to promote Hong Kong Independence.”

The two were particularly attacked for their participation in a “self-arranged” press conference in which Billy Fung consolidated his points about HK Independence, and even supported the similar claim of the Uyghur people.

Read More: How Nathan Law Is Representing A New Generation Of Leadership In Hong Kong

Based on the report by Radio Free Asia, Billy Fung called on the international community to support Hong Kong Independence.

“In 1984, Zhao Ziyang openly stated that it was feasible to govern Hong Kong with democracy,” Fung said. “Such democracy in Hong Kong has since, yet, been refused on various occasions.”

Wang Dang, famous for his patriotic stance said that “Hong Kong Independence should be up to the referendum among Hongkongers, which is believed to be the most reasonable way.”

In reply to a question from a member of the World Uyghur Congress, Fung said, “Similar to Hong Kong, Uyghur people are under suppression and persecution by the CCP. Our destiny is alike. Based on the principle that locals shall make decision on their local affairs, we support the choice of the Uyghur people. We can cooperate in this respect.”

The statement and claims made by ViuTV was instantly slammed by netizens, and especially Wang Dan himself, who never knew about such hidden agenda.

Read More: Will Filipino Domestic Workers Soon Be Banned To Clean Windows In Hong Kong?

“The whole schedule was arranged by the Channel only, including the press conference. It now yet claimed it is Billy and I who ‘arranged it on our own’. There is nothing more shameless than such claim!” said Wang on his Facebook page.

He further warned ViuTV for its shameless act of lying while showing his disappointment towards Hong Kong. “Hong Kong has already fallen,” lamented Wang.

This has became the second incident recently which demonstrates the growing suppression on Hong Kong Independent sentiment, following the recent scandal of Legislative Councilors banned from oath-taking with the exhibit of a flag with “Hong Kong is not China”.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

How Nathan Law Is Representing A New Generation Of Leadership In Hong Kong

By Joy Pamnani

Last month, Hong Kong held its first Legislative Council elections since the Umbrella Revolution in 2014.

Among the pro-establishment and pan-democratic camp, a new group of localists emerged, with an aim of preserving the city’s autonomy and local culture.

Nathan Law Kwun-chung, 23, a key student leader during the Occupy Protests was a localist elected in the legislature.

Law is the youngest politician Hong Kong has seen, representing a generation of youngsters in their fight for genuine universal suffrage.

Law’s political background goes back to the Umbrella Movement in 2014, where Law and Joshua Wong were important student leaders in the city’s fight for universal suffrage.

Read More: Will Filipino Domestic Workers Soon Be Banned To Clean Windows In Hong Kong?

A the time, Law delivered those protesting on the streets for democracy. He was also involved in meeting officials during the movement, calling for a genuine implementation of universal suffrage in 2017 Chief Executive elections.

The Year 5 Cultural Studies student never thought of entering politics as a child, thinking of it as “a dirty game with people fighting among one another for self-interest”, as quoted in an SCMP article.

But witnessing the “limitations” of established pan-democratic parties in the city’s sit-ins, he decided to take on making Hong Kong a better place.

Law formed a new party with Umbrella Revolution student leader Joshua Wong in April 2016, calling for Hong Kong people to have the right to vote in a referendum on independence from Beijing.

Photo Credit: Nathan Law/ Facebook.

Photo Credit: Nathan Law/ Facebook.

The group has vowed to hold a referendum in 10 years to let the people decide their own fate beyond 2047, when the principle of “one country, two systems” expires, and secured a seat in the Legislative Council with its 23-year-old chairman Nathan Law serving as a legislator from the Hong Kong Island geographic constituency.

Read More: Ethnic Minorities Need To Be Embraced As Fellow Hong Kongers

The idea of independence has circulated throughout the city, yet received backlash from the local government.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced “Hong Kong independence” should not be a discussion topic at schools, also warning teachers they could lose qualifications if they advocate independence in class.

However, the team has pledged to work for the “self-determination of Hongkongers”, with the use of non-violent means.

Few days back, Hong Kong saw its new legislative councillors sworn in. During the ceremony, three pan-democrats and localists wearing “Hong Kong is Not China” banners’ oaths were declared invalid, after they modified the words and insulted China.

After Law was sworn in as a lawmaker, he asked Legislative Council Secretary General Kenneth Chen what authority he had to decide that three members’ oaths were invalid, and whether they were allowed to vote for the Legislative Council President on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite not getting an answer, Law kept his cool, and quoted Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. “You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”

While youth political participation is uncommon in today’s age, but the case is different in Hong Kong.

Read More: Does The American Fulbright Program Have Too Much Control Over Hong Kong Universities?

According to Dr Chor-yung Cheung, a professor at City University of Hong Kong, the city’s unique status as a Special Administrative Region is a reason why.

“The deadlock in Hong Kong’s democratic development plays an important role in youth activism here,” Cheung told RISE NEWS in an interview.

The rise of youth activism in Hong Kong began in 2009, during anti-express rail campaign.

In the days leading up to the Umbrella Revolution, a student class boycott was held at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, in response to Beijing ruling out public nomination for the city.

More young people stepped in during the protests.

“After the Umbrella Movement in 2014, many young people here are very unhappy about the political deadlock we have in Hong Kong and quite a number of them have become politically very active, to the extent that they now is an important political force in Hong Kong,” Cheung said.

Through the elections, Law has seen Hong Kong people want a democratic future.

With the support of the public, Law hopes to bring about political change in the future.

“We inherited some spirit from the (Umbrella) Movement and I hope that that can continue in the future,” Law said, in an interview with Hong Kong Free Press.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Nathan Law/ Facebook

Will Filipino Domestic Workers Soon Be Banned To Clean Windows In Hong Kong?

By Raphael Blet

HONG KONG- Last week, the Philippines consulate announced that they secured a deal with the Hong Kong government to ban Filipino domestic workers from cleaning windows outside high rise buildings.

Following this announcement, some employer’s groups expressed their concern and requested the government to postpone the ban as they were not consulted.

Some cited the ‘inconvenience’ of such a ban and asked the government some additional time.

On Friday afternoon, the Labour Department released a statement in which it said that the revision will be suspended for one month citing the necessity to strike a balance between the worker’s safety and the interest of employers.

The consulate, which is in charge of adding clauses in the contracts, agreed to postpone the ban.

Read More: There’s A Bleak Outlook For Artists And Businesses In Industrial buildings

Meanwhile, some domestic workers expressed their concern and disappointment.

“We didn’t come here to make our life dangerous. If employers want to clean their window [from outside], they should hire a professional window cleaner,” Josie, a domestic worker told RISE NEWS. “Personally, I didn’t encounter safety issues. I am living in the sixth floor and it’s fine for me to clean the window because there is a grill. I feel safe.”

Asked about the postponement of the ban, she expressed her disappointment pointing on the fact that safety should be a priority.

“I feel very disappointed with the postponement of the ban,” Josie, who declined to give her last name said. “There is no need for them [the government] to think about it, we need our safety first.”

The government’s final decision is yet unclear but many who oppose the potential ban are doubtful about the last verdict as they believe that it will not be in their favor.

Read More: Does The American Fulbright Program Have Too Much Control Over Hong Kong Universities?

While this is issue is still hotly debated in Hong Kong, Singapore started to ban all domestic workers from cleaning the exterior of windows in 2012.

Many believe that the Filipino consulate should not be in charge of this issue but that – instead – the Hong Kong government should have the sole responsibility to insure the safety of domestic workers.

For many years, Hong Kong has been strongly criticized for the unequal treatment given to its domestic helpers.

Read More: What The Walk21 Conference Taught Me About The Future Of Hong Kong

Some helpers were reportedly abused by their employers who took advantage of their vulnerability.

Migrant unions have recently called on the government to give a better treatment to foreign domestic helpers.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Barbara Willi/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There’s A Bleak Outlook For Artists And Businesses In Industrial buildings

By Paulus Choy

HONG KONG- When tourists step into the concrete jungle of Hong Kong, their sights are usually occupied by the cliched high-rises, shopping malls and night-life of this international city.

Unbeknownst to them, the robust and often run-down industrial areas here also offer entertainment.

Walk into some of the industrial buildings here, and you may find little boutiques, art galleries or restaurants. These establishments although raw on the edges, showcase unfiltered passion and creativity, that you can’t get while walking in air-conditioned shopping malls.

However, artists and entrepreneurs alike are scared for their future in Hong Kong, due to recent industrial building evictions in the city, amid public safety concerns for these buildings after accidents occurred in them.

Hong Kong’s industrial past

As one of the “four little dragons”, Hong Kong relied upon its industrial and manufacturing market to make her mark since the 60s. As the owners started to shift to the mainland to lessen costs, more of these buildings were abandoned.

Our economy shifted towards a seemingly diversified economy, whilst exclusively fostering growth in the service and finance industry.

Nowadays the manufacturing industry is almost non-existent, with industrial production dropping yearly, according to the Census and Statistics Bureau.

We have award winning restaurants, tourist attractions and of course, high rent prices; For the sixth year in the row, Hong Kong have been crowned with the most unaffordable housing market, by the International Housing affordability survey Demographia.

Our expensive commercial rent prices forced many start-ups to scavenge for deals, where many stumble into cheaper industrial spaces.

Now, you can find pretty much everything in these industrial spaces: according to the Planning Department, non-industrial uses include art showrooms, shops and restaurants, with about 21% of these being for shops and services in 2014.

Read More: Does The American Fulbright Program Have Too Much Control Over Hong Kong Universities

Wary of this trend, the HKSAR government decided to set up Industrial building revitalisation scheme in 2009’s policy address.

Hong Kong’s chief executive announced a set of tools to support revitalisation, yet until now many building tenants still opt to operate without the government’s permission.

Half of the applications this year got approved according to the Development Bureau, meaning some of the tenants have to tread carefully and operate without proper land lease conversions.

Government crackdown on “illegal” industrial buildings

Secretary for Development Chan Mo-po announced that buildings in violation of land leases, that attracted crowds and had premises inside with licenses to handle Dangerous material, shall be ordered to restore the space to its original state within 30 days, or else the government will repo the whole building.

Amongst the 11 buildings inspected, 73 cases were found to have match the considerations.

The checks were initiated after two big fires that occurred with these industrial complex. one fire started in a storage facility, that eventually cost the lives of two firefighters, sparking public outcry to beef up regulations on these buildings.

Photo Credit: Andrew Colin/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Andrew Colin/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The recent evictions forced many of the artists and small businesses to move out; According to the Lands Department, 19 of the 73 cases have ceased operating, these include band rooms, gyms and restaurants.

The government has not provided any support after their eviction, many are left to lookout for themselves.

Read More: What The Walk21 Conference Taught Me About The Future Of Hong Kong

Many tenants are worried of these evictions; Factory Artist’s concern group issued a public letter to the government, expressing their concern on the recent evictions on cultural activities in industrial spaces, urging officials to loosen up regulations for cultural/artistic activities, and provide support to evicted tenants.

Culprit of the accidents

These evictions were to raise safety standards of the buildings, according to the Lands Department, saying these evictees attracted crowds, with buildings at risk of developing accidents.

According to local newspaper SCMP reports, there has yet to be an identified cause to the fires. Are tenants the sole culprit of these accidents?

Certain industrial complex do lack in fire safety precautions: According to a territory-wide survey done by the Fire and Services Department, there are over 300 buildings without proper sprinkler systems.

But to Paco Wong, who owns a few units in an industrial building here, management companies in these buildings are also responsible for fire safety standards.

He said tenants are responsible for fire fighting equipment within their units, but management companies are responsible for areas outside of the rented units.

He said a lot of the management companies don’t do a lot, as doing less and spending less money from collected management fees, means more profits for the management companies. The office- owner said many management bodies would tighten controls only when government checks begin.

Complex land lease conversions

Evictees were accused not only for safety standards, but also for conflicting land leases.

Many of these abandoned buildings were stipulated for industrial use in its land lease, so for people who want to set up businesses or workshops, they would have to convert the land lease in order to legitimise their operations in the complex, which will involve wholesale conversions. according to the government’s announcement in Legco.

Most of the buildings have leases falling into the “Industrial use” or “other uses(business)” as shown in the area assessment, done by the Planning Department.

If individual tenants of the complex want to convert their lease, they would have to obtain consent from every tenant in the building, initiating certain structural changes to the area, which doesn’t help when over 60% of these buildings have multiple owners.

Read More: Ethnic Minorities Need To Be Embraced As Fellow Hong Kongers

These modifications range from fire safety precautions, to parking lot additions, these projects take time and money, which were sorely lacking in a lot of the applications, even though government has announced financial aids including waivers and lowering application threshold.

Photo Credit: green_intruder/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: green_intruder/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Those who could afford conversions, are usually big corporations with the resources to sustain the changes. This raises doubts on whether the scheme can also help the middle/small-sized enterprises here, who can’t entertain the soaring commercial property prices.

Mr. Wong said few of the tenants attempted to do conversions, many of them were paying rent whilst waiting for the conversion approval. By the time they got approved, the tenants had to move out as they could not bear the costs any more. He also said the conversions require land premiums, which would raise rents.

He said the only ones who could have complete a conversion are people with a lot of money, or big corporations.

This could explain why there were subsequent withdrawals, after initial applications have been accepted by the government, according to data provided by the Secretary of Development.

Moving forward

Different government departments are involved when dealing with industrial buildings, which not only clogs down the operations, but it is often confusing to shop owners applying for spaces in industrial areas.

Right now, an application have to go through several departments at the same time, including the Planning Department, Lands Department, Fire and safety department etc.

One single department should be set up dedicated to these areas, with uniform and refined laws regulating the shop space, given there has been genuine demand for industrial spaces amongst artists and entrepreneurs.

This should be coupled with more government financial support, especially during the conversion period. This could encourage tenants to operate their businesses legally, instead of fearing for government checks every second.

Some of these buildings are at risk of developing accidents, but instead of fidgeting and closing down everything, government should examine and tackle the situation systematically.

They should identify businesses that could be in-risk of developing accidents; those that are not at risk of developing accidents, attracting small amount of people at the same time, should be allowed to continue.

Of course the details of the standards should be hashed out and be accessible to the public for reference.

Moreover management companies should also be held accountable, the government should also examine the performance of these companies, conducting regular checks on these management bodies.

With individual conversions and a dedicated guideline around it, tenants can operate their businesses legally, and improve safety standards at the same time, so that they can continue enriching Hong Kong.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover photo credit: www.pyz.It/Flikr (CC by–SA 2.0)

Does The American Fulbright Program Have Too Much Control Over Hong Kong Universities?

By Raphael Blet

HONG KONG- While primary and secondary schools are under the Education Bureau’s (EDB) authority, tertiary institutions are autonomously operated.

Despite being detached from the government’s authority, higher institutions are publicly funded and validated by the University Grants Committee (UGC).

Following the education reforms in 2012, universities around the territory went through major changes given that the previous three years curriculum was changed to a four years one.

In order to renew their structure, some universities partnered with the Fulbright Program so as to implement the general education reform.

Many academics and students are opposed to this system as they say it deviates them from their fields of research.

According to The Standard, Victor Sit Fung-shuen — who in 2012 was heading the Advanced Institute for Contemporary China Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) — was removed from office after the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) issued a statement in which it accused Mr. Sit of providing ‘irresponsible and fictitious’ claims in his publication.

Read More: What The Walk21 Conference Taught Me About The Future Of Hong Kong

Mr. Sit claimed that the Fulbright Scholar Program, which he referred to as the ‘American fund’ was ‘directing the setting up of general education programs’.

The panel handling the case stated that Fulbright was instead providing ‘support and advice’ to universities.

Despite hitting back, Mr. Sit’s Blue Book of Hong Kong was called back and the ‘falsified information’ amended.

The allegations made in the publication were considered as academic misconduct mainly because Mr. Sit did not provide any evidence supporting his claims.

Furthermore, he was believed to have ignored the numerous warnings from the university which offered him the ‘opportunity’ to correct his ‘mistakes’.

Mr. Sit’s acquaintances were only to give his claims even less credibility due to their political background, thus justifying the board’s decision to dismiss him for harming the university’s integrity.

This issue was controversial as the university found itself in a complicated position after Mr. Sit claimed that he was victim of ‘literary persecution’.

Nevertheless, the panel decided to revoke Mr. Sit’s contract given the result of the report.

How can a qualified academic make such false claims if they were all to be wrong? Were those allegations only unfair, biased and politically motivated? What role does Fulbright (that he refers as the ‘American fund’) truly plays in Hong Kong?

The Fulbright Program was named after the US Senator J. William Fulbright and established in 1946.

This program is sponsored by the US Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau, meaning that it is a governmental organization. According to the US Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau, Fulbright is an exchange program aimed at ‘increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries’.

It offers both students and scholars exchange and scholarship opportunities in different countries while non-Americans are also given the same possibility.

As previously mentioned, Fulbright also acts as an adviser especially in Hong Kong where it has an important role in setting the general education curricula.

Read More: Ethnic Minorities Need To Be Embraced As Fellow Hong Kongers

In addition, Fulbright is locally represented by the Hong Kong America Centre (HKAC) which is based at CUHK.

It is reasonable to claim that those labelling themselves as ‘advisers’ will at one point occupy a directorial position and therefore ‘direct the setting up of the general education curricula’.

HKBU is a good example. Professor A. Reza Hoshmand, who is now the Director of General Education arrived in 2008 as a Fulbright scholar, in other words as an ‘adviser’.

Now — in addition to being an adviser — Prof. Hoshmand has a managerial role.

In numerous journals and other reports from CUHK and HKEC, the term ‘reward’ is mentioned: ‘Institutions will provide rewards for faculty who are effective teachers in general education, ideally by embracing what one called “a broader definition of scholarship.”

If rewards are translated into scholarships, Mr. Sit’s claims of an external funding are justified.

In her report, Mixed Marriages and the Fulbright Hong Kong General Education Program, HKEC’s program Director Ms. Ginny Tam gives an important number of elements that would be in favor of Mr. Sit claims.

Here are a few of them:
‘Faculty resistance and apathy were evident’ (Page 1): The term ‘resistance’ is defensive and would let us believe that the ‘advisers’ did have an executive function.

‘This outside presence is very important especially in the early years because they acted as stimulants and catalysts’ (Page 1)

‘This tone of aversion to America originated from the interpretation of the function of the Program as a kind of U.S. interference, with America presuming that it has been sending experts in the role of consultants to help Hong Kong to build its own GE. Not few local colleagues found the idea of the Program patronizing, hence their sentiment, annoyance.’ (Page 3).

There seems to be sufficient evidence to accept the claims made by Mr. Sit.

Read More: Does The Government Even Want To Save Cantonese From Going Extinct In Hong Kong?

It is true to say that external organizations such as Fulbright and HKAC are indirectly controlling some universities.

As proven by those documents, there has been an undeniable pressure on academics as well as a strong opposition from local scholars.

Yet, it is still impossible to officially claim that there is an external funding but the probabilities of an indirect funding are high. In any case, this reform has been truly profitable to the Fulbright Program.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Gonzalo Pineda Zuniga/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What The Walk21 Conference Taught Me About The Future Of Hong Kong

By Iverson Ng

HONG KONG- Hong Kong’s “Walking Movement” has officially been kick-started after the 5-day global conference Walk21 took place at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

With 156 experts gathered from 38 countries, this conference was truly a global collaborative platform to come up with ideas of how to improve walkability of this international finance hub.

Why the conference came to Hong Kong, should be a surprise to none.

With a total area of 1100 square kilometres, this city has less than 1/4 developed land while as much as 40% of this metropolis is preserved as country parks and nature reserves.

Stunning as it may sound, living within some 1,300 skyscrapers standing taller than 100m out of almost 8,000 buildings according to the global provider of building information Emporis, Hong Kongers struggle to live with a population density of almost 6,700 persons per square kilometre.

Read More: RISE Reporter “Bumps” Into Unexpected Demonstration At Thai Consulate in Admiralty After Wong’s Deportation

Among the 18 districts in Hong Kong, the most densely populated district goes is Kwun Tong, which has some 57,000 persons per square kilometre.

Walk21 wants to make Hong Kong a more walkable city in order to fight climate change and overcrowding. Photo Credit: Yi Chen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Walk21 wants to make Hong Kong a more walkable city in order to fight climate change and overcrowding. Photo Credit: Yi Chen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Statistically speaking, Hong Kong is a notable city that values walkability as a tool for commuting when financial services, trading and logistics, tourism and professional and producer services are four key industries.

Looking beyond the prosperous side of this packed city, though, Hong Kong still faces several challenges–heavy reliance on railways, redevelopment projects and lack of private car regulations–to improve walkability.

While both Hong Kong and the Swedish capital Stockholm, for example share similar world-class railway systems operated by the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Corporation, the railway in Hong Kong seems to be overloaded–on average about 4.7 million passengers taking the MTR everyday.

As a Legislative Council report shows, the maximum capacity of the carriages in the East Rail Line and Ma On Shan Rail Line is or above 100% during the rush hour.

Several transit stations such as Amiralty, Mong Kok, and Yau Tong are packed with people getting on and off from work, making people hard to transit from one location to another location smoothly.

Like what Civic Exchange CEO Maura Wong suggested in the conference, Hong Kongers spend roughly 50 minutes commuting on average, but they tend to spend only 5 minutes walking. Perhaps we should consider walking as a lifestyle instead of making it as a function for commuting.

Read More: Ethnic Minorities Need To Be Embraced As Fellow Hong Kongers

Even though the MTR Corporation will finish its 4 strategic rail extensions including West Island Line, Shatin to Central Link, Kwun Tong Line Extension and South Island Line (East) in the foreseeable years, to improve walkability in Hong Kong, the uncontrollably frequent road traffic doesn’t just make it harder to extend more accessible walkways for pedestrians, but also discourages people to ride bikes for work and leisure.

Currently, there are as many as 530,000 licensed private cars, making up more than 2/3 of all vehicles this year, according to the HKSAR government fact sheet.

Watch: The Welcome Video to Walk21

Not only does it exceed the number of private cars in 2020 predicted by the government in 2007, but it also contributes one of the reasons why the traffic congestion is prominently serious everyday.

The government should give incentives to encourage private car owners to take public transport instead.

Read More: Does The Government Even Want To Save Cantonese From Going Extinct In Hong Kong?

While the Walk21 conference might not make a short term impact on the above issues, it is still likely to help usher in a gradual change if Walk21’s main themes–walking between layers, walking with multiple benefits, walking smart, and walking together–can spread out to the general public.

Let’s hope these change help Hong Kong become the city we all want it to be.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Walk21/ Facebook

Scroll to top