AIPE Program, Hong Kong | Week 4 – Money, ICAC & 10,000 Buddhas

Micha Gartz

One of the highlights of the AIPE program was the cultural presentation night which gave students of various nationalities the opportunity to share their culture with classmates. South Korean students showed some techniques for mixing drinks, the Mainlanders demonstrated a (simplified) tea ceremony, while the USA team sang and acted out the social character of each of their states and Columbian students invited us to participate in a dance workshop. We concluded the weekend with hikes up to the 10,000 Buddhas Temple and taking the cable car up to see the Tian Tan Buddha (or ‘Big Buddha’) at Ngong Ping.

Our excursions continued during the week, starting with a visit to the Monetary Authority on Monday. There we learned more about the evolution of Hong Kong’s currency system within its historical context, including the transition from pounds to HK dollars.

Tuesday’s TFAS excursion to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) illustrated the emergence and vital need for establishing and supporting independent anti-corruption commissions, particularly in times of rapid social and economic growth. This was seen in Hong Kong during the 1960s and 70s, as expansion of manufacturing industries resulted in rampant corruption across all business sectors, and even extended to the police force. When Peter Godber, a corrupt Chief Superintendent under investigation, was able to flee to Britain, public discontent peaked: there were mass rallies in Victoria Park demanding Godber’s extradition and condemning the Government’s failure to address corruption. Shortly after, in early 1974 ICAC was established to educate and involve the public to uphold the rule of law in the fight against corruption.

During our last week in Hong Kong, we had the pleasure of meeting Laurence Pak again, and Chairman of the Lion Rock Institute (LRI) Bill Stacey for dinner and drinks. The next day we had Andrew Work, one of the LRI founders as a guest speaker. Despite being in Hong Kong for nearly three weeks, his overview of the city’s history was helpful to TFAS scholars, and provided an opening for classroom debate.

Students’ numerous political and ideological backgrounds continued to be challenged the following day with a debate on corporate social responsibility. I had previously never engaged in a debate before, so the experience was completely new and enjoyable. It was far more civil than how our politicians seem to behave.