Hong Kong Student Protests and the Responsibility of Communication Education

In the last two months, Hong Kong’s student movement protests of China’s control over Hong Kong’s limited democracy has garnered international attention. The movement is lead by university student Joshua Wong, who, at only 17, has stood at the forefront of thousands of protestors in his fight for universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

To provide some brief background to issues igniting these protests: In 1997, the British ended 155 years of colonial rule over the Island of Hong Kong, located off the south-east edge of the Chinese Mainland, and returned sovereignty to the Chinese government. Hong Kong, however, still maintained a certain amount of governmental autonomy, and the political relationship between Hong Kong and greater China has been described as “one country, two systems”. However some Hong Kongers, used to political freedoms that British rule had provided them, feel as though the mainland government is slowly beginning to reduce the autonomy of the Island and impose Chinese communism. The student protests currently taking place began in response to a decision to require that candidates for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive (similar to the role of a prime minister or president) would have to first be vetted by the central government in Beijing.

Now what does all of this have to do with speaking and writing? In Jennifer S. Simpson’s article Communication Activism Pedagogy: Theoretical Frameworks, Central Concepts, and Challenges, Simpson states that since all knowledge is subjective and thus political, all humanities and especially the study and technique of communication comes with political responsibility. Similar to the common maxim “with great power comes great responsibility,” Simpson’s key argument is that, with learning to speak and write, we, as students, must also learn to advocate for a just world as Joshua Wong is doing in Hong Kong.

At the start of the video above, “The Evolution of Joshua Wong,” the narrator says that, “on the Hong Kong subway [Wong] looks like any other kid,” and yet he has inspired the largest challenge to the Chinese Communist Party control in the last decade. All students, speakers and writers, might appear unassuming in a crowd. The confidence with which Wong speaks during his interview in “The Evolution of Joshua Wong” demonstrates the power of determination paired with strong communication skills that have set him apart.

Our campus this semester has been more fraught with protests and demonstrations than ever before in my three years in Morningside Heights. What responsibilities do we have as speakers and writers to facilitate and even join this activism? Why do we learn communications skills if not to advocate for the world we want to live in?

To find out more about the Hong Kong Student Protest visit:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/29/world/asia/clashes-in-hong-kong.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22%7D&_r=0

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