The reports coming out of Hong Kong have been dominated by extreme stories about the protests. In the Chinese supermarket, I catch whispers traveling over meticulously-stacked boxes of lychee and durian; in small, suburban tea shops, my friends trade tales about the events unfolding back home, where an old woman bravely stood between protestors and officials to preach a message of peace. I hear about civilians losing their jobs and that Hong Kong’s economy has greatly diminished due to labor strikes and loss of tourism. Although many college students attribute their lack of involvement in the protests to a lack of resources, studying abroad in Hong Kong would positively affect Hong Kong’s tourism industry by enabling protestors to continue fighting for their civil rights without suffering as many economic repercussions.
It’s no secret that the protests are deterring millions of people from visiting what was previously a tourism hub. In 2018, Hong Kong was the most-visited city in the world. However, with the uncertainty regarding the safety of the area, many tourists are opting out of vacationing there, consequently leading to massive economic fallout. All concerns are arguably valid, especially when viewed with the context of the Aug. 12th airport shutdowns, when hundreds of flights were canceled after protest activities. Due to the lack of visitors, the retail sector has suffered losses that cause economists to speculate that Hong Kong will soon enter a recession.
But despite these discouragements and recent escalations of the conflict, Hong Kong is still a viable destination for studying abroad. The mainland Chinese government asserted that the protests would indubitably deter tourism and as a result, activists are making it a point to be as peaceful as possible. In this ongoing battle for democracy, it becomes increasingly important to demonstrate solidarity through economic action. When it really comes down to it, “thoughts and prayers” can only do so much. If anyone cares about the situation in Hong Kong, visiting the country should be a priority.
During this tumultuous period of time, the best method that students can employ to lend support is by continuing to study abroad and buying from retailers in the region. My friend, whose parents are from Hong Kong, expressed hesitation when she returned to her ancestral home to continue her studies, but claims that she has been met with hospitality rather than conflict. My other peers expressed gratitude that they could continue to patronize businesses and educational systems in Hong Kong without threats of violence. The protests continue to influence almost every facet of life in Hong Kong, but they still cannot detract from the historical and cultural significance of the region. If the activists have taught us anything, it is that the livelihood of Hong Kong is something worth campaigning for.
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