Tensions are only growing in Hong Kong as pro-democracy demonstrations continue for the 16th straight week. This past June, residents of Hong Kong protested an amendment to the city’s extradition law. It would have allowed Hong Kong to process the extradition of criminal suspects that any government requests, including the Chinese government, even if that country has no extradition treaty with the city. Moreover, the perceived threat to Hong Kong’s sovereignty from Beijing has led to riots on government property. Eventually, protests included demands for a full democracy and more police accountability. As the movement expanded, protests have ranged from mass student strikes to violent, tear-gas-filled clashes with law enforcement officers. Protests have also attracted international attention.
With the international scale of the protests, the Hong Kong protests have had rippling effects as far as Cleveland. A student at the Cleveland Institute of Music who identified himself as Anson and comes from Hong Kong expressed mixed emotions towards the situation back at home. He expressed relief as his friends said that he “left at just the right time” as the situation in Hong Kong continued to escalate after he arrived in America.
However, the geographical distance between Cleveland and Hong Kong perhaps only heightened his concerns for Hong Kong. He fears for the safety of his friends and family, as there is no guarantee that any demonstration can stay conflict-free.
“Whether or not there is violence or peace, it’s unpredictable. When the things just go so out of control, violence may appear. This is the time when I am worried about them the most.” Despite his concerns, Anson admires his friends who protest because they “have the courage to protest and stand up for what’s right.”
Financial uncertainty also seemed to mark Anson’s new school year. His parents’ worsening financial situation due to the protests only adds to his growing list of burdens. “The reason why I could study here is because they are financially supporting me.” Unfortunately, Anson remarks that the protests have hurt the Hong Kong economy. The economic downturn jeopardized his parents’ finances too, endangering his chances of continuing his education at the Cleveland Institute of Music because his parents, who pay for his tuition, “may suffer a rather huge loss from their investments if the protests continue.”
Because of the economic downturn and growing unrest, Anson predicts that the percentage of Hong Kong youth who hope to study overseas will grow. He says that, while one’s “financial situation comes first,” Hong Kong youth have become increasingly disillusioned with the system; “they don’t feel in control anymore.” Moreover, Anson has seen an uptake in the number of arguments that the youths are having with their parents.
The increase in at-home conflict may also drive some students to look elsewhere for higher education. Students from over 100 secondary schools and 10 universities plan to welcome the new school year with class strikes, boycotts and more subtle forms of demonstrations. While no solution has been reached, one thing is becoming clear: students who come from Hong Kong may not be in the classroom any time soon. Some originally had plans to apply to college, but class strikes might impact that process.
With continual unrest in Hong Kong and the 2020 undergraduate admissions season looming, the effects of the Hong Kong demonstrations on Case Western Reserve University’s admissions specifically are still unclear. Assistant Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Undergraduate Admission Bob McCullough of CWRU commented: “From an admission standpoint, it is difficult to predict any direct impact of a specific political situation on the application activity from a particular country. There are so many factors that can affect an individual student’s decision of where to apply and ultimately enroll for college.”