Lam Yik Fei / The New York Times

Thousands of protesters demonstrated in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood of Hong Kong on Dec. 1.

December 1, 2019

Teach-In Seeks to ‘Humanize’ Protests in Hong Kong and Share ‘Diverse’ Opinions on Democracy and China

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Discord over the student-led protests in Hong Kong has spilled over onto Cornell’s campus, sparking cries of vandalism and spoiling plans to study abroad. A teach-in by students from both mainland China and Hong Kong hopes to address questions and misconceptions about the conflict.

The event, sponsored by the China & Asia-Pacific Studies Program and organized by Weifeng Yang ’20 and Kinen Kao ’22, will start with presentations from three students from Hong Kong and mainland China, followed by a moderated question-and-answer session.

Originally scheduled for Monday, the teach-in will now instead take place either on Thursday or Dec. 9 due to the cancellation of classes.

According to Yang, the student speakers — two of whom are from Hong Kong — have been encouraged to present their “subjective viewpoints,” including their own personal experiences with the protests.

Why? To “humanize” the events in Hong Kong, especially for Cornellians who feel far-removed from the city.

“These are actually people around on this campus whose friends might have been arrested, or whose parents’ business are being hurt because of the consequences of the protest,” Yang said.

For moderator and director of the China and Asia-Pacific Studies program Prof. Allen Carlson, government, the teach-in is essential for constructive dialogue, especially given the proliferation of news about Hong Kong on social media.

“There is a great deal of misunderstanding and misperceptions about both why the protests began, how they have unfolded, and what their implications are likely to be,” Carlson told The Sun in an email.

The organizers, both of whom will speak, wanted to show a “diverse representation” of opinions by featuring two students from Hong Kong and two from China, one from each location with pro-democracy or pro-establishment views.

“You still have a significant amount of the population who are pro-establishment and pro-Beijing for a reason. Alongside many of my mainland Chinese friends, you know, they hold these views for legitimate and concrete reasons. And I do think that it is important to recognize [them], even if you disagree with them,” Yang said.

However, the organizers were unable to find a pro-establishment Chinese student willing to speak publicly — most likely out of fear of backlash from fellow students, Yang said. Instead, he plans to compile views from his own pro-establishment Chinese friends, who will remain anonymous, and present them alongside his own pro-democracy perspective.

“There have been few events that feel as consequential for the country as the current protest movement in Hong Kong,” Carlson said. “What is happening there will have great consequence not only for those who live in [Hong Kong], but also in the rest of the PRC, and in the rest of the world.”