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Politics, Philosophy and Protests (week 2)

It’s our second week in Hong Kong and first week of The Fund for American Studies’ (TFAS) Asia Institute for Political Economy (AIPE) program. Outside of the lecture theatres, we’re still immersed in the public policy debate that has taken over Hong Kong. From the quieter conversations in university hallways to the continued street protests, hunger strikes and handwritten thoughts on post-it-notes colouring building walls, such as ‘Lennon Wall’ message boards at the Central Government Complex, the people of Hong Kong continue to voice their opinions on the current extradition bill and their executive, Carrie Lam.

Post-it protests

Arriving at the University of Hong Kong, us four Mannkal scholars have each been allocated dorm-rooms with international room-mates from countries including mainland-China, Hong Kong, India and Bangladesh. This year’s program covers two areas of thought: Political Philosophy lectures from Dr. Charlotte Thomas of Mercer University in Georgia, USA, and Political Economy lectures from Dr. Nikolai G. Wenzel of Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, USA.

From Plato to Hayek, the course-work so far has explored many ideas on of liberty, capitalism, and more, from a variety of sources. The classroom we’re part of has been a great source of learning – with just over 60 students representing 18 countries, the fellow students (becoming friends!) around us bring a breadth and wealth of differing cultures, experiences and ideologies to the class, complementing the lectures through their challenging questions, sharing of knowledge and unique perspectives.

Carmen at Repulse Bay

After regular lectures, the program also features a range of visiting guest lecturers in the afternoons. The first guest lecture was on Monday from Andrew Work, founder of the Hong Kong economic policy think tank, The Lion Rock Institute, and previous Director of The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Mr. Work covered the history of Hong Kong and gave an overview of the current social, economic and political situation of the region.

Wednesday’s guest lecture was from Edwin J. Feulner, founder and former president of the The Heritage Foundation and named as one of the 100 most influential conservatives in America in 2007 and 2010 by The Daily Telegraph (UK). Feulner’s talk covered contemporary U.S. foreign relations as well as his role in the first year of Trump’s administration, which embraced nearly two-thirds of the policy recommendations from his foundations’ “Mandate for Leadership” publications.

The third lecture of the week was on Thursday, from Jim Thompson, founder and chairman of The Crown Group, headquartered in Hong Kong and boasting over US$800,000 in annual revenue and operations in over 60 countries. A different perspective from the previous lecturers, Mr. Thompson shared his story of starting a small business with US$1,000 in Yokohama, Japan, and shaping it to the worldwide group it is today.

Damon and Steven exploring Hong Kong

Group activities are organised by TFAS as well as us four Mannkal scholars having our own free time to continue exploring Hong Kong. We spent Sunday sightseeing with the group of TFAS students, including spectacular views of the Hong Kong city skyline from the mountains of Victoria Peak (a definite must see for any visitors/future scholars) as well as Repulse Bay, Victoria Harbour, and the Golden Bauhinia Square. Hearing about a blockchain conference, us Mannkal scholars accompanied with new friends from the program, were able to attend ‘Block O2O: Institutionalisation of the Digital Asset Fund Industry’ on Monday night, with a range of quality industry speakers.

We’re looking forward to next week with more lectures on philosophy and economics, guest lectures and a cultural presentation for which us Mannkal scholars have been preparing a true-blue presentation on everything from home.

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