Society

Society

Confusing high-tech online classes during campus closure

Time has frozen in the hallways of the Department of Computer Science at Hong Kong Baptist University. All the lights on, but the empty rooms are almost too eerie to step into. A piece of paper that reads "Online Teaching  In Progress" is stuck to a door. Behind it, Lan Liang is sitting in front of his computer, facing a screen filled with the names of his students framed in a grid.  Due to the overwhelming spread of COVID-19, universities in Hong Kong and mainland China have suspended on-campus teaching activities since January. Resumption of classes before the Summer now seems unlikely. Teaching activities have moved online. But the high-tech teaching tools have caused some confusion. Some teachers are uncertain whether students understand the content while others aren't sure how to use the online teaching software. Dr Lan, a lecturer from the Department of Computer Science at HKBU is among them. He started teaching at the university two years ago but has experienced the suspension of on-campus classes twice so far.  Dr Lan started teaching using the video conferencing application, ZOOM, this semester. Teachers share their computer screens in real time with students.   Dr Lan found it difficult to teach that way. "At the beginning, I actually felt very weird just talking to a computer for two hours," said Dr Lan,  "I did not know whether the students really understood the concept or not. I just kept talking and talking." He asked his students to turn off their cameras because he was afraid that the network could not bear the traffic if everyone was on video. Dr Lan is not alone. Jean Lai is another lecturer at the Department of Computer Science. "I cannot see the students. I don't know if they are listening, or can understand what I am …

Society

Caught in the middle: how Hong Kong protests affect the mental state of mainland students in the city

Amy, not her real name, lives in fear of retribution by the Chinese government months after the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong. She has been depressed since witnessing the siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University back in November. "That day, I had a mental breakdown. I couldn't stop crying," Amy recalls from behind her mask, worn by most of those who took part in the protest. "Everything felt meaningless," she added. Last November, on-campus classes at universities around Hong Kong were suspended due to safety concerns about the continuous protests. Non-local students, including those from mainland China and abroad were advised by the universities to leave Hong Kong. The sudden change left many mainland students unprepared. During political tension between Hong Kong and mainland China, some mainland students were caught up in a quandary about their identities, according to a survey conducted by The Young Reporter. Q1: How long have you been living in Hong Kong? Q2: Why did you leave Hong Kong? Amy, the girl dressed in black, said that during the "most scary time," she was drowned in anger and sorrow, but she hardly trusted anyone when she wanted to share her experience. "Weibo (Chinese social media) is also one of my way out. If you can talk about it, you might feel better," she said. However, she told The Young Reporter that her Weibo account has already been blocked since she talked too much about politics. Those who didn't engage in the social movement as much as Amy also experienced mental instability. Sophia Sheng, 20, a mainland student studying at Hong Kong Baptist University, said that she has been affected by the "negative emotions" from the protests. "No one knew when it would end. The fear of the unknown caused anxiety," said Ms Sheng. Some of …

Society

 How Overseas Chinese students react to the coronavirus outbreak?

Two weeks before starting university in February, Nathan Ng was walking to church on an overcast Sunday morning. On his way, he saw a middle-aged Caucasian woman, with her young daughter, staring at him. Both then pointed and muttered foul language directed at him and two other Chinese people on the same street.  He chose to ignore them and continued walking to church.  Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in China, there has been an increasing number of reports of discrimination against Chinese people around the world. In one case, Jonathan Mok, a 23-year-old Singaporean of Chinese descent studying in London, suffered facial injuries in a "racially aggravated assault."  "I was scared whenever I stepped out of my house. I wasn't sure how people would react and behave towards me because of everything that has happened in China and the rest of the world," says Mr Ng.  Nathan Ng, a Chinese student at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, has gone through issues of anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic.  According to the Australian Government's Department of Health, the nation has over 2,300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and eight reported deaths, as of March 25.   During the same journey to church, while Mr Ng was crossing the road, he saw an elderly man in his early 60s coughing. He initially thought the cough was exaggerated due to his presence. However, as he looks back at the incident today, he thinks it was just a regular cough and regrets the anger he felt at the time.  Following the incident, however, he nearly began to tear up.   "I don't think much about what happened now, but it definitely had an effect on me at the time," said Mr Ng.  Since heading back to university in early March, things have improved …

Society

An invisible wound: mental illness is troubling Hong Kong after anti-extradition bill protest

A recent study found that one-fifth of Hong Kong adults have suffered from mental illness after experiencing the half-year long anti-extradition bill protest, but few are seeking psychological counselling. The study, published by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong in The Lancet on 9 January, looked at mental health in Hong Kong between 2009 and 2019. Researchers randomly sampled Hong Kong people aged 18 and above. They found that roughly one in five Hong Kong adults reported symptoms of probable depression or suspected post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the anti-extradition bill protest started in June 2019.  Among 18,000 respondents, those who suffered from probable depression went up five times from approximately 2% to 11.2% by the end of 2019. Only 5% of the respondents said they suffered from PTSD in March 2015, but that rose to more than 30% by the end of November 2019.  "The increase corresponds to an additional 1.9 million adults with PTSD symptoms," the research indicated. "This is definitely abnormal," said Gabriel Leung, Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong who took part in the research.  Hong Kong was embroiled in the protest movement for seven months, triggered by the now withdrawn extradition bill. The protest has since turned into a mass anti-government movement, with protesters insisting on the four remaining demands – independent commission of inquiry into the police force, retraction of the classification of "rioters", amnesty for arrested protesters and dual universal suffrage. "Seeing people suppressed by the government while there's nothing much I can do made me angry and upset," said Felicity, a university student who did not want to reveal her full name for fear of cyberbullying. She reported feeling mentally distressed during the protest.  As a student from mainland China, Felicity found …

Society

Lessons from SARS: what Hong Kong learned in fighting the coronavirus

Long queues at supermarkets and pharmacies are common in Hong Kong these days. Face masks, toilet paper and rice are sought after in the city's fight against the novel coronavirus. The panic in Hong Kong started on January 23 soon after the first case of novel coronavirus infection was confirmed in Hubei province in mainland China. As a city with close ties with mainland China, Hong Kong is not optimistic. By February 20, Hong Kong health authorities have confirmed 68 cases. So far,  two people have died. As the number of cases on the mainland continues to climb, there are protests at railway stations in Hong Kong by those who want the government to close the border with the mainland. Thousands of medical workers went on a one-week strike because they could not cope with the influx of new cases from the mainland. Doctors and nurses accused the authorities of failing to protect their safety. It's not the first time Hong Kong faces a city-wide health crisis. This new disease known as COVID-19, is caused by a new type of coronavirus that has certain similarities with the coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003, and Hong Kong learned some important lessons 17 years ago that are relevant to the current epidemic. Back then, SARS killed 299 of the 1,755 people infected. A housing complex, Amoy Gardens in Kowloon Bay, was the hardest hit area. There were 321 cases.  "Amoy Gardens was like a dead city at the time. No one came here. All the shops were shut," a resident at Amoy Gardens who didn't want to disclose his name recalls. Investigators later found that the virus had spread through the sewage pipes. Instead of washing their floors and flushing water down the pipes, people simply mopped. U-traps in the pipes were …

Society

Mainland students at Hong Kong universities dissatisfied with suspension of on-campus teaching due to novel coronavirus

Hong Kong universities suspend on-campus classes until 2nd March, sparking worries of poor online teaching quality, graduation delay and financial loss among mainland students. Online teaching measures including Zoom, Moodle and WhatsApp will be applied during the suspension. Make-up classes, examinations and approval of graduation lists will be duly deferred. “The suspension sucks! Now I’m just wasting my tuition!” raged Xu Zheng, a mainland senior at Hong Kong Baptist University majoring in advertising and branding. Twelve mainland students at the University drafted a “Joint Declaration of Mainland Students at Hong Kong Baptist University,” worrying about financial and academic loss caused by another suspension on the heels of the 6-month political upheaval last year. The Declaration received 1079 effective supporting signatures by 19:30 1st Feb before it was submitted to the University. The Declaration demands graduation support, focus on teaching quality and tuition compensation, expanded qualification for full tuition refund and subsidy for the living of non-locals. The drafters claimed that flaws of online teaching such as inaccessibility of on-campus equipment would discount the outcomes of the tuition paid. About half of 1305 respondents felt “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the quality of online teaching due to political turmoil last November, according to a survey conducted by Association of Mainland and Hong Kong Youth, HKBU. About half prefer extension of semester to online teaching. According to official websites of Hong Kong universities, yearly tuition for non-local students is about 100,000 HK$ more than that for local students. Based on a Mingpao survey, 28.6% to 46.0% of Hong Kong university entrants were from Mainland China in the academic year 2018/19. “We talked with the mainland student organization and they said some students would be misrepresented if they were to publish a declaration, so we came up with this joint letter asking for …

Society

Social worker hopeful looking at future of ethnic group

Among the South Asians lingering outside Chungking Mansions, social worker Jeffrey Andrews is the only one not handing out coupons to a curry house, or persuading passers-by to stay at the guest houses. Mr. Andrews works with those in need inside a building notorious for its unhygienic and dangerous environment. With his dark skin and short curly hair, Mr. Andrews blends into the Chungking crowd. As the  smiling 34-year-old made his way through the twists and turns of the building, nearly everyone recognised him. Shop owners greeted him and more dark skinned peers shook his hands with gratitude. "There are over a hundred countries represented here. It's like a big family," said Mr. Andrews, who is ethnically Indian, while waiting for the lift up to his office.The doors opened on the sixteenth floor and there was extra flight of stairs to his office. Mr. Andrews has been serving ethnic minorities and refugees at Christian Action, a charitable organisation that serves the city's disadvantaged and abandoned, for ten years. He is the first registered ethnic minority social worker in Hong Kong. Discrimination against people of colour is not uncommon in Hong Kong. They are often perceived as dangerous, undereducated, and poor. The Equal Opportunities commission handled 132 complaints related to race discrimination in 2018. Mr. Andrews is deeply passionate about promoting and educating people about ethnic minorities, which make up 8% of the city's population, according to the Census and Statistics Department. "It is unfair to focus on the identity of South Asians when one of us does something bad. It has been tiring having to defend our name and do publicity work to keep up the reputation," said the frustrated Mr. Andrews after the Jimmy Sham incident. Mr Sham, an activist,  was reportedly attacked by men of South Asian descent …

Society

A "Day of Thanks": Hong Kong protestors flock to pro-democracy businesses to show gratitude

Pro-democracy protesters heeded an online call to support "yellow shops" today, expressing their gratitude to businesses which have shown support for the ongoing anti-government protests that started in June.  The "Day of Thanks" was publicised on social media outlets and chat platforms, such as telegram, encouraging supporters to "say yes" to those businesses by endorsing and purchasing products from them throughout the day. The "colouring" of opposing political views was sparked by the Occupy Movement in 2014, with pro-democracy supporters labelled "yellow ribbons" and allies of the police or Chinese government classified as "blue ribbons".  The current unrest, sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, has again greatly divided the city, with netizens categorising shops depending on their political stance.  Stores classified as "blue" are actively boycotted by protestors, while stores categorised as the newly emerged colours of "red" and "black" — meaning mainland financed or have suspected triad affiliation — are often graffitied and vandalized during demonstrations.  Let’s Jam, a cafe in Tsim Sha Tsui, and Lung Mun Cafe, a Hong Kong-style diner, were among the "yellow shops" listed on a poster advertising the "Day of Thanks". Supporters were urged to check into the establishments on social media with the hashtag #standwithhk. Many of the "yellow shops" have openly endorsed the pro-democracy movement through participating in strike days, posting social media as well as in-store.  Staff of Let's Jam said business has increased after they have created a “Lennon Wall” in the shop for customers to write words of encouragement to support the movement and protesters. "More people have been coming to support us for standing on the side of Hong Kong people," said Tung, staff member of Let's Jam. "Apart from the Lennon Wall, we also offer free meals to protesters who used up their money because of the movement."  Ms. Chiu is …

Society

The heart-stirring rhythm — "Glory to Hong Kong"

Dubbed the new, unofficial anthem for Hong Kong, the heart-stirring march "Glory to Hong Kong" has motivated and touched the hearts of protesters, inspiring them to join choruses in shopping malls around Hong Kong. The lyrics have been translated into different languages, including English, Japanese and Korean. Videos showing flash mob-style performances have reached more than 2 million views on Youtube in a month. The tune is the creation of a musician working under the pseudonym, Thomas, who we contacted by LIHKG. "I created this song to boost morale and to enhance cohesion among the people," Thomas said. "My faith ( in the movement) inspired me to write the song. I want people to keep their heads up together and I want everyone to know that we are fighting hard for liberty and freedom," Thomas added.  "The song not only talks about the old days when people used to chant about the 'Spirit of Lion Rock', but it also refers to a new generation of Hong Kongers, and their sacrifice for liberty and rights," he said. Thomas said the protests are no longer just about opposition to the extradition bill, but also symbolize Hong Kongers' fight for freedom, liberty and universal suffrage. "Most people in Hong Kong support the protesters by buying them safety gear such as helmets and gloves, but these gear can barely withstand the violence. As a musician, I can write a song to strengthen people’s faith because having a strong faith is invincible," he said.  Some say the song is a better way to express political aspirations than violence. "The song comes at a time when the activists want to have space to express their sentiment rather than just fighting the police. I believe people are afraid of 'Mainlandization', that is, their personal liberty and freedom will …

Society

Safe in black?

Since June, the streets of Hong Kong have been filled with the trademark black and yellow hues, peppered with the pink filters of their gas masks. Some even cover their entire faces with black scarves or turtle necks to hide their identities. Andy Lam, 21, is one of the black-clad demonstrators."Wearing black T-shirts represents our identity and our five demands," she says. The five demands include withdrawal of the extradition bill, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, not to label the unrest as "riot", release arrested protesters and universal suffrage. Anyone wearing black these days may be suspected of involvement in the protest, especially after some protesters threw petrol bombs and bricks, set fires and vandalized properties. Ms. Lam said she strangers sometimes glance at her just because she is in black. Recently, she tried to help a mainland couple to find their way around Hong Kong Baptist University, but to Ms. Lam, they seemed suspicious because she was wearing black. Christoph Li Xiaoyong, a 22-year-old mainland student from Hong Kong Baptist University, is not a protester, was mistaken for a protester on September 9 just because he was wearing black. He was actually just out to watch a movie in Mongkok that evening. "I had to hide in the alley but the riot police followed me and then found me. I then had to go back on to the main road, where I got tear-gassed along with the protesters," he recalled, "and that made me feel depressed." Another mainland student, Seven Yang, had a similar experience when she was in black.  "Coming back from Lowu, I was stopped by customs officers for inspection. They checked my bags but not my friends’ who were wearing other colours,” she said. In fact, people with different political views are split according …