In late October, the Discovering Asia class at the International School of the Americas met before school to participate in a video conference with Alice Mong, Executive Director of the Asia Society in Hong Kong. The main topic of discussion was the current pro-democracy “Umbrella Protests” taking place in Hong Kong, which began in September.
To prepare for the discussion, students learned about the history of Hong Kong, and read extensively about and watched news coverage of the “Umbrella Protests.” Cassie Allen, ISA’s teacher of social studies electives, said that “students were extremely engaged in the process, because they knew they were going to have an authentic interview with someone who was seeing the protests first hand.”
Allen and her students viewed the discussion as an opportunity to compare media coverage of the protests with the observations of Mong, a Hong Kong resident and an expert on the region. The students communicated with Mong using audiovisual equipment that allowed everyone in the class to participate. “We e-mailed several questions to [Mong] beforehand, which she answered, and then we asked her many more questions on the spot,” said senior Liam Day.
Much of the conversation involved the young age of most of the protesters and the portrayal of the events in the U.S. media. Allen’s students were surprised to learn that, according to Mong, there are many adults in Hong Kong who do not agree with what their children are doing. Mong explained that the protests are affecting daily life, especially for families and businesses, a point that Allen’s students found especially interesting.
“Before the Skype call, I really thought that the majority of Hong Kong supported the protest,” said senior Shae Silva. “The western media makes Hong Kong sound like the city as a whole is fighting for democracy, which is not the case.”