Anne Pondi, a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) freshman, lived in Hong Kong before the protests started. She was also there when the Hong Kong government proposed the extradition bill, a law that would allow criminal suspects to be taken to mainland China for trial.
Pondi was still a student at Hong Kong Adventist Academy the first day thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to object the now-withdrawn extradition bill. As time went by, she also witnessed how the once-peaceful demonstrations took a more violent turn.
“When violence started being introduced, I felt kind of sad because I didn’t think that it would get to that point,” Pondi said. “The transportation was affected, and the roads were blocked. …The safety was also affected because usually Hong Kong is seen as a safe city, but now it is less safe I guess.”
Pondi is not the only Southern student who has had a firsthand experience of Hong Kong’s ongoing political situation. Currently, there is one student who is doing an internship at the Chinese Union Mission (AUM) and three others who are working as student ambassadors at Hong Kong Adventist College (HKAC). Financial Management alumnus Mighty De La Bel is one of them.
De La Bel arrived at Hong Kong in September; one month before hundreds of flights were cancelled due to a clash between police and protestors at Hong Kong’s international airport.
“I didn’t see any demonstrations in the airport, but there were a lot of places that were closed off,” De la Bel said. “So, I had to walk a different route in order to meet the person who was going to pick me up.”
De La Bel said since HKAC’s campus is far from the city, he has not encountered any protests but has seen the aftermath of the demonstrations.
Business administration sophomore Lorena Alves shares a similar experience. According to Alves, much of Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) has been vandalized.
“We went to the MTR closest to the school and you could see that the machines were broken and that glasses were broken and everything like that,” Alves said. “One time there were small papers all over the walls; and though I didn’t understand a word of it because they were Chinese characters, I could tell that it was something political.”
According to Time Magazine, about 800 MTR ticket machines, 1,800 turnstiles and 50 escalators have been broken since the protests began. Alves said because most protests take place on the weekend, she no longer goes out on Saturdays or Sundays unless accompanied by a faculty member or someone who has a car.
Even so, Alves has seen how the demonstration has affected those around her.
“Many of the students [at HKAC] are day students,” Alves said. “They have to come and go, and they’re the ones to see [the protests]. So, you can see the difference in their humor and their mood because they got to the point that they’re scared.”
For De La Bel, the most shocking part of the situation is seeing all the young people who are involved. According to the South China Morning Post, one third of protesters that have been arrested in the last four months were under the age of 18 and 4.4% were under the age of 16.
“Usually when you think of protests you assume that there will be some damage to property and all that stuff. So, in that sense, that did not surprise me,” De La Bel said. “But seeing how involved the younger generation is and how some of them even get injured or arrested, that was surprising.”
Since the protests first began, tourism in Hong Kong dropped by more than 30%, according to The Economist. Additionally, Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department has also reported a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decrease of 0.4%.
It has been four months since Pondi left Hong Kong to come to Southern. She says she misses the city and hopes to go back and visit, but adds that things like safety and transportation efficiency are not the same as when she left.
“[When I see] all those changes in Hong Kong, I get really sad,” Pondi said. “I mean, it [Hong Kong] was like a second home to me. That’s where most of my friends are. I had adapted to the lifestyle. But because of all these issues, I feel like that is completely changing, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon.”