ISSIA Magazine (Edition I)

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Copyright © 2021 Inter-school Social Issues Association Hong Kong. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reuploaded, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means: electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written consent of creators. typeset in Gilroy Family © instagram: facebook: issiaofficial linkedin: contact: Please note: the views and opinions expressed in the ISSIA Magazine are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of ISSIA HK or any of the schools they belong to.

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Our Team Contributors

Editor-in-Chief Reese Wong (STC)

Angel Li

Directors Reese Wong (STC)


Jade Poon

Michelle Jiang (STC)

Managing Editor

Irisa Kwok

Jaclyn Solomon (STC)

Creative Director

Justin J. Kim (STC)

Director of Typesetting and Layout

Raphaele Guillemot (VSA)

Head Artist

Daniel Chung Maika Ono Ewan Windebank Reese Wong

Cover Art

Jessica Poon

Bernice Chong Nicole Lee

Ivan Chiu Selina Yeung


Jamie Hui

Justin Kim

Noor Rizvi

Jaclyn Solomon

Justin Cheng Charlotte Leung

Design Erin Fung Chloe Cheung Chloe Ching Sky Chen Bernice Chong Gordon Wu Marcus Leung Anna Natalya Thompson Shraavasti Bhat

Joy Chen Jasmine Leung Clarinde sanft Charlie Guo Luna Huang Rishima Mathur Adeline Cheung Elly Wolhardt Nicole Lee

Ji Yeon Kim Karma Samtani Belle Ho Audrey Yuen Katie Warren Maddie Jager

Editorial Kelvin Ng Angela Chen Tungsten Tang Daniel Chung Jade Poon Aerin Mok Chloris Lo Tsz Yu Solomon Lam

Hay Wong Noor Rizvi Nicole Tan Alexander Arnold Ivan Chiu Joanne Yau Megan Kong

ISSIA HK First Edition Digital Edition

ABOUT THE ISSIA ISSIA (Inter-school Social Issues Association) is an international, student-led group based in Hong Kong. We aim to foster stronger inter-school links and create a network for discourse on social issues in Hong Kong and beyond. Currently, ISSIA has over 200+ active staff members from 40+ schools throughout Hong Kong. In addition, we have also expanded internationally, with contributors from the U.S, India, Philippines, Russia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and the U.K! We produce a variety of multimedia content, including magazines, podcasts, webinars, surveys and videos. In the forthcoming year, we intend to launch a series of live events and programmes, ranging from workshops, conferences and the introduction of school chapters. ISSIA prides itself on having an active community and network of passionate individuals, all working to shed light on pressing issues and providing an inclusive platform for social engagement and student voice; the notion of civil discourse has never been more important and is central to our driving ethos - one we will continue to uphold.



In addition to the magazine, we also have a weekly podcast programme in which contributors discuss contentious topics ranging from social apathy in Hong Kong to intersectional feminism. We also discuss academic topics e.g. nihilism, economic systems and more!

Multimedia Team: We are expanding our multimedia coverage. We are working on a documentary series, diversifying the content for our podcasts and expanding our research and advocacy efforts.

ISSIA ONLINE Our online magazine platform serves as the base for our multimedia content and the main website for ISSIA. We also introduced “ISSIA Weekly”, a weekly roundup of select articles from ISSIA Online! We currently have over 100+ articles lined up to be released through various means!

ISSIA RESEARCH We have conducted two comprehensive surveys! Our first survey investigated the social engagement of high school students in Hong Kong (100+ respondents). Our second survey focused on the effects of COVID-19 on student wellbeing and student opinion on online learning (60+ respondents).

Events Team: We are looking to introduce a consistent stream of high-quality, high-impact events. Current plans include a “Youth NGO Forum”, community quizzes, student-led forums, debate and MUN programme and a large-scale Social Issues Festival.

Outreach: We have three main areas of expansion 1) local schools 2) universities 3) international. We are looking to expand recruit on all three fronts, helping make our community even more diverse!


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message from the editor-in-chief I think teens are often an overlooked stakeholder in discourse of social change. Especially when viewed cumulatively, the power of youth cannot be understated. We are those that will have the primary responsibility of driving progress, be it through the shift of public discourse, or driving impact in our local communities. As such, I think it is incredibly important to start early and take action, broadening our horizons and learning the importance of social consciousness. ISSIA is the product of this sort of thinking.

My motivation for starting the magazine was that even though most schools have a magazine of sorts, there lacked a collaborative large-scale platform to showcase the diverse talents of Hong Kong students. As one of ISSIA’s central projects, we work to shed light on pressing topics such as social justice, mental health, human rights, culture and socio-political quandaries. The magazine provides an inclusive platform for social engagement and student voice. The ISSIA Magazine is a microcosm of the wider organization’s goals.

ISSIA was borne out of a summer internship at a local mental health charity, Mind Hong Kong. During this internship, myself and a few others started talking about the medley of social issues that manifest in our schools - and by extension, the lack of collaborative projects and a network to discuss these issues on an “inter-school” level. At our core, ISSIA encapsulates the notion that the “whole is more than the sum of its parts”; our diversity brings about synergy that we leverage when working towards our common passion for discourse -- indeed, our members not only contribute, but actively lead this process.

This edition is very much emblematic of the diversity of ISSIA, with articles on the LGTBQ+ landscape in Hong Kong to nihilism, and capitalism. We also feature some spectacular illustrations and art pieces, in addition to impressive photography submissions. I express deep gratitude for all those who contributed to the production of the magazine - be it editing and writing articles, designing, or organising publicity efforts. Each member - through his or her efforts - has contributed to the weaving of this rich tapestry of inter-school collaboration. I hope you enjoy this edition of the ISSIA Magazine!



The Hong Kong LGBTQ+ Identity


The Living Ironies in “Asia’s World City”


The State of Education at International Schools



Why You Should Care about Politics



Gentrifying Wan Chai


Hong Kong’s Ageing Population an Overview

The Disappearing Dolphins of Tai O


Restorative Justice in Hong Kong


Mental Health In Asian Society: the Paradigm Shift?


Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong and Language Barriers


Has Hong Kong been built or destroyed by capitalism?


The Plight of Refugees in Hong Kong


Nihilism within our modern ‘work culture’


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Youth Mental Health: Coolminds Interview

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“Educational Inclusivity” Leaves Much to be Desired


Bold and Brilliant - Why You Should Take Risks


The Promises and Risks of Technology in Education


A Life I’ve Come to Miss




GLOBAL BRIEF The Question of Vaping and E-cigarette Usage


Addressing the potential weaponization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data


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Timothy Chow (DBS)

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ISSIA Podcast EP3: LGBTQ+ Identity in Hong Kong

Angel Li (DGS) Artwork by Zoe Chan (SIS)

The Hong Kong LGBTQ+ Identity


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In many modern societies, heterosexual relationships are considered the ‘norm’, institutionalized as what is ‘right’ by various sectors of different societies: in religion, in law, in popular culture and more throughout history. As a social construct, the ‘default’ identity of heterosexuality was further enforced in 1934, when it was defined as the “manifestation of sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality.” by the second edition of the Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary. In this age of “heteronormativity”, as coined in 1991 by U.S. social theorist Michael Warner, where do homosexual individuals stand in our society of Hong Kong?

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According to a study by the University of Hong Kong, in 2017, only 21.0% of respondents were ‘very accepting of gays and lesbians’, while 21.9% of respondents were ‘not at all accepting of gays and lesbians’. When asked whether samesex couples should have ‘all the rights heterosexual (male-female) couples have’, 38.2% of respondents agreed, while 22.5% of respondents said same-sex couples should have ‘none of the rights that male-female couples have’. It can be observed that in 2017, the percentage of respondents agreeing that same-sex couples should have ‘all the rights male-female couples have’ (38.2%) was significantly higher than the percentage of respondents that were ‘very accepting of gays and lesbians’ (21.0%). This difference shows that many Hong Kong people do not necessarily base their opinions about the protection and rights of homosexual couples on their personal moral values such as their religious beliefs, possibly due to the common notion that Hong Kong’s laws should uphold equality for all individuals no matter their sexuality, race, gender etc. The phenomenon of general non-acceptance yet a willingness to support equal rights of same-sex couples can be observed in the attitudes of Hong Kong people towards specific rights for homosexual couples as well. According to the study, in 2017, 78% of the public supported hospital visitation rights for samesex couples; 67% agreed that samesex couples should be protected from housing discrimination; 72%


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supported permitting homosexual individuals to sue for the wrongful death of their same-sex partners in cases of fatal accidents; 61% agreed that same-sex partners should inherit property from each other; and 50% agreed that samesex couples should be given the right to marriage, like heterosexual couples. The study also found that in 2017, 69% of the public favored anti-discrimination legislation for homosexual individuals in Hong Kong. At the Hong Kong Pride Parade on the 16th of November, 2019 in Hong Kong, interviewees were asked the question of ‘Do you think Hong Kong society is accepting of people in same-sex relationships?’ Cleo Lo, a social worker who has worked at AIDS Concern (a non-government charity organisation committed to the service of AIDS care) and is currently working at Tung Wah Group of Hospitals’ Pride Line (a 24-hour Supporting Hotline for Sexual Minorities), believes that when it comes to homosexuality, many in Hong Kong ‘are not very familiar’ with it, so ‘it is normal for people to have an unaccepting attitude towards these relationships’. According to Asha Cuthbert, a well-known local Youtuber, in Hong Kong, there is ‘underlying discrimination against it [homosexual relationships]’. She believes many Hong Kong people hold a rather nonchalant, selfish and apathetic attitude towards homosexual relationships and individuals, stating that they think

‘it’s [homosexual relationships] fine’, ‘as long as you don’t affect me’ and ‘you don’t tell me about it’. According to Karma Samtani, a Hong Kong student who runs Inclusivity Hong Kong, a student-led organization dedicated to eliminating discrimination and promoting inclusivity in educational environments, ‘Hong Kong is somewhat of a socially conservative society’, with ‘many people who are affiliated with certain religious groups that do not believe that LGBT people should be provided the right to have same-sex relationships’. He also said that many in Hong Kong ‘don’t really care’, so they ‘are not as willing to just come forward and support’. According to Mr. Sue, a father of two who brought his children to the Pride rally, Hong Kong has ‘a Chinese-based culture, and China has traditionally been very closed about same-sex relationships.’ In conclusion, many Hong Kong citizens are not very accepting of homosexual relationships; this could possibly be due to a lack of understanding and knowledge of homosexuality, personal religious beliefs, or the fact that Hong Kong has a basis in traditional Chinese culture. However, many still support the legal protection of rights and liberties of homosexual individuals, such as the establishment of anti-discrimination laws and granting them the right to marry in Hong Kong, possibly due to the ingrained value of equality before the law of all individuals. 2

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Adrian Wong (VSA) 4

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The Living Ironies in “Asia’s World City” Jade Poon (GSIS) Artwork by Jaclyn Solomon (STC) For decades, Hong Kong has built up its reputation as a free and dynamic society of modernity, creativity, and entrepreneurship. And just as its standing as a global city has steadily grown, foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) have become an integral part of day-to-day life in the bustling streets of Hong Kong. But despite their vital role in society, FDHs face constant discrimination and even abuse within their own households, to the point where a sense of personhood is lost. Three key points will be analysed: one, cases of employers controlling almost every aspect of a domestic helper’s life; two, acts of resistance against employers that allow FDHs to maintain a sense of personal agency and identity; and three, the unfair trials and specific laws in Hong Kong that actively oppress FDH rights.


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The abuse and controlling behaviour that FDHs endure can be viewed in two main ways: physical punishment and the act of controlling their appearance. Parallels may be drawn between FDHs

and *muijais (妹仔) in Hong Kong society prior to the 1920s. Like muijais, FDHs are often forced by employers to engage in illegal activities or overwork to the point of exhaustion, and may frequently be beaten, starved, or locked inside rooms for days on end, while also facing physical assault. This can be interpreted through Foucault’s theory of power, in which discipline is a form of power that indicates how people should act and produces obedience. The use of physical means to assert dominance is one of the most direct forms of discipline, using pain and the fear that comes from it to school FDHs and muijais into obedience, making them docile bodies. It’s important to note that muijais were treated not as people, but as objects owned by employers. Their social identity consisted purely of being a commodity for employers to use, especially since they had been taught and treated to be servants to carry no will of their own. Comparatively, FDHs possess a contract meant to preserve their rights, and more importantly, a life outside Hong Kong, where they act as breadwin-

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ners for their families elsewhere; though to the employer, the FDH is still seen as someone who serves them. This is where Foucault’s theory of resistance comes into play: where there is power, there is resistance. The very thought of opposition, be it feeling of frustration, anger, or discontent towards the employer, is a show of resistance: the muijai and the FDH are not simplified to the social persona of a docile servant, but they also possess a personal face that acts to disagree with their position and their employer. In the case of the FDH, she also holds the persona of being a mother, a daughter, a wife, and/ or a breadwinner, all of which extend beyond the assigned persona of being a domestic helper within Hong Kong society. Another way to understand an FDHs’ personhood is through acts of resistance. The three main ways that may be used to analyse this is through power in numbers, public transcripts, and hidden transcripts. Before FDHs, Chinese amahs were frequently employed. Like FDHs, they had less economic power than their employers, yet were able to resist abuse through sisterhoods. If women who belonged to sisterhoods were maltreated, “sisters” lent them economic and emotional support and helped them find new jobs, and other sisters refused to work for the offending employer. Similarly, “sisterhoods” may be formed between FDHs in places like Central, where many FDHs bond over shared hardships and a culture and environment similar to Manila, or in places like church. Emotional support, and at times, economic support, is provided to “sisters” in need of assistance. This showcases Weber’s theory on collective agency, where power in numbers acts as a form of resistance. The support of others provides a community in which a sense of belonging is restored, giving an FDH a place where she does not need to portray the image of a docile domestic worker. Resistance is also shown in subtler forms by contesting ‘public conscripts’, i.e. making use of prescribed roles and language to resist the abuse of power. When an FDH faces criticism, she has long grown used to condescending attitudes and takes such insults in strides. With friends, a FIlipino FDH may crack jokes and poke fun at Chinese passersby, insulting them in a language the Chinese can’t understand. The power that a shared lan-guage holds provides a mutual sense of belonging amongst FDHs, giving them comfort and closure; for all the times they have been reprimanded, they hold power in such a way that others who supposedly have higher social power cannot respond to.

Unfair trials and laws that constrict agency are the third way in which power is used to “control” the personhood of an FDH. This may be divided into three categories: trials, the Contract, and the two week rule. In terms of court trials, most FDHs don’t have the financial resources, time, or confidence to pursue clams through the Labour and Immigration Department. Even when FDHs do ask for trials, HK laws and policies deter workers from pursuing their rights. An example of this is when an FDH successfully charged her billionaire employer with 5 cases of sexual assault, yet the punishment was a small fine of around 5000HKD. Placing FDHs at a lower status in legal situations deters them from a position of whole personhood they ought to possess as a full member of society, affecting their rights and power to pursue such liberties. In terms of the con-tract, the FDH’s personhood is once again under-mined. Supposedly, the contract guarantees certain human rights , but a major issue is that many of its conditions are difficult to implement , and are often interpreted to favour the employer. For in-stance, the Contract states that FDHs “must only perform domestic duties ” but the vagueness of the said “domestic duties” means that FDHs may be forced to do work that takes place within the household of an employer ’s business . In terms of the two -week rule , FDHs ’ financial security is directly challenged . When a contract is terminated , FDHs must either leave within 2 weeks or before the date of expiration of her visa if it falls shorter than 2 weeks . Many FDHs thus do not report complaints to Labour or Immigration Departments, for fear that they will be forced to return home, instead choosing to endure poor working conditions , physical and emotional abuse, and maltreatment . This can be seen in cases of an FDH complaining to her friends, where she will be reminded to be thankful to even have a job. This may be seen as an abuse of structural power, where the FDH’s inferior economic position is used as a means to prevent her from speaking out against abuse and abide to the supposedly fair laws. The situation that FDHs face today is still undoubtedly unfair, but we, as a society, are making slow steps to improving it. Even speaking out against active discrimination on the streets to acts of abuse within a household can make a difference, and perhaps one day, Hong Kong can live up to the ethical expectations of its international reputation as Asia’s world city. *Muijais were young Chinese women who were sold as domestic servants in China; they would be “freed” when older through marriage. Although the practice of slavery was outlawed in 1844, it remained prominent in Hong Kong society until the 1940s, where they were replaced with amahs.


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ISSIA Podcast EP2: Liberal Education

Irisa Kwok (KGV) Artwork by Bernice Chong (DGS)


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The State of Education at International Schools

In the Paideia Proposal, Adler argued that every child is owed ‘a liberal education.’ This is based on Socrates’ system of the study of paideia: as well as their vocation, mathematics, logic, ethica, aesthetics, music, poetry, rhetoric, and science in equal measure. Nowadays, private schools parade liberal education and critical thinking as a hallmark of their great distinction, but really, how faithful are they to that system, and is there a need for a more vocational approach to education?

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Sitting in the waiting room outside the offices on a cold December day, I sneakily checked my phone. I was almost half an hour late for class. But I couldn’t leave; it is a truth universally accepted that a villain should, must, and will receive their just desserts. My crime? My socks couldn’t fully cover my ankles. It is a formative moment of sorts to sit on a cushioned bench, jiggling your leg because you know that every minute spent there is 10 dollars wasted, unable to take your phone out to check the time for fear of further punishment, and have only the school brochure keep you company. Now I do not have the exact wording, but I remember seeing something along these lines:

X School fosters a holistic, tolerant and multi-cultural perspective among our students in line with our mission, values and aims of embracing diversity, difference, and the uniqueness of every learner. We have a long tradition of serving the community and achieving excellent examination results and producing well-rounded young adults, focusing on building self-awareness and -esteem in our students by encouraging intellectual curiosity and independent, critical and creative thinking in a liberal environment which will maximise students’ potential and promote the growth of the whole person. And that made me freeze. “Holistic”, “tolerant”, “diversity”, “critical thinking” and “liberal”, were words that, in my humble opinion, did not belong in such an institution where image-policing runs rampant. You shouldn’t be fined for forgetting to bring a tie, nor given a detention because you felt like wearing lip gloss, nor being singled out because - gasp! - your skirt is too short. And it got me thinking: We reason that local schools face much stricter policies and therefore free-thinking is limited, but are we really being given the true liberal education here? Thus, through this two-part article, we seek to answer 3 questions: 1) What is the liberal education, and how did it come to be? 2) How does and can it truly exist in a modern post-recession society, and 3) Therefore, have we any need for it? Firstly, what is a so-called liberal education and what does that have to do with private schools? Rest assured, my apolitical friends, that a liberal education has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative the way these terms are often used in modern politics. The liberal education as we know it today was in fact created in Ancient Greece by the philosopher Socrates, who defined a true education as an interactive experience involving critical inquiry, an equal dialogue between equals in terms of the learner and the learned, and a collaborative process that encouraged people to question the world around them by reasoning things out. Most importantly, every man had a right to this enlightenment. His student, Plato, further developed that idea by creating the paideia, a list of subjects meant to be extensively studied solely for the purpose of enriching the mind. They included: rhetoric, history, philosophy, arithmetic, logic, ethics, aesthetics and science.

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This was seen as revolutionary; at the time, people simply went to tradesmen if they wanted to learn a craft. A winemaker would teach winemaking, or if you had legal aspirations you could corner the nearest lawyer and beg him for an apprenticeship. The idea of learning simply for the sake of learning was novel, and the citizens of Athens flocked to it. However, despite it costing nothing, there was still a price to be paid: time. “Bronze” people, who consisted of tradesmen and artisans, as Plato so dubbed them, needed the majority of their days to hawk their goods and learn their trade - they had no need of rhetoric, philosophy, or biology. Why should they need to spend hours memorising what a dead general said if they could spend that time earning money, try to make their living a little less hand-to-mouth? And so, it became a privilege left only to the rich, the “silver- and gold- souled” citizens who heaped their teachers with precious gifts as thanks for this enlightenment, in helping them become “guardians” of the citystate; such payment then became customary. To put it crudely, the aristocrats of Athens who had previously been lounging around their silks and spices, started trading them for this knowledge, enabling them to take positions of office to serve their own interests. Slowly, they infiltrated senates, courts, markets, schools. In trying to create a holistic education for the everyman, social mobility was erased, as winemakers stuck to their wines and lawyers to the law, all under the servility of a powerful aristocratic class. There were obviously other factors, like revolutions, mass migrations, endless wars, but, from the lens of philosophy, that is essentially what happened. Now, liberal education, knowledge for the sake of knowledge, was in vogue. Vocational education was out, unless it innovated itself, which it did, with trade schools, polytechnics, and comprehensives, marketed towards middle and lower class families as the equivalent to the liberal aka private education. Despite coming from a completely different intent, vocational education now had essentially the same learning model and liberal education, purely because of its popularity, and its students being disproportionately successful and able to influence the future of the education system. Which leads us back to the question: what makes those two so different? Why do we pay for one and not the other? Well, status, for one. That much is clear. But for many, they knew it wasn’t a sufficient justification. Paul Freire, Brazilian educator, considered freedom to be the defining factor between liberal education and vocational. The perceived frivolity of the liberal education, he conjectured, lay then in the addition of the cultivation of freedom, in the form of critical inquiry and free, creative expression, as laid out in Socrates’ original theory. Rote-learning and standardised exams would be reserved for those who could not afford to know such freedoms. And there you have it: Apparently, only through strong tradition and conserving ancient values can a love of knowledge, critical inquiry, and freedom of expression truly thrive. Paradoxical, I know. Is it any wonder that we’re all a bit thick?

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Timothy Chow (DBS)

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Why You Should Care about Politics Daniel Chung (VSA); Graphics by Raphaele Guillemot (VSA)


olitics. Yes, that dreaded word that oftentimes leaves us wanting to push the “ignore” button every time we see or hear it mentioned, for any fears of getting into overly-heated debates -- or, more accu-rately, arguments. In fact, some readers of this very article may be wanting to do that exact thing at this moment, to flip the page and turn on from having to read more about politics. But what we’ll attempt to do here is to give you a reason to not give up just yet, a justification against tuning out entirely from the political conversation. We’re going to try to explain why you should care about politics, why you should remain engaged with and knowledgeable about the political processes, and we’ll break it down in neat little bite-sized sections with even neater headlines.


Everything is fundamentally political. The phrase “the personal is political” may have, over the years, become associated mainly or even solely with “radical” feminism. However, it’s true, regardless of whether or not we would prefer to ignore the re-ality of the situation under the current circumstances. Everything is fundamentally political in nature in our daily lives. Whether or not the lighting gets to our apartment -- that is, if we live in public housing, a political decision made by the government. Whether or not our health insurance is provided to us in a straightforward manner by the government or dependent on the whims and wishes of possible employers. Again, yet another politically motivated decision by legislators — and mostly dependent on it they’ve been bought out in campaign contributions by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Whether or not the roads are even paved properly, too, or if they’re littered with potholes, depends on the type of government we have, on the lack of cor-ruption in the government that ensures taxpayers’ money doesn’t get laundered about, on whether or not government is even taxing at a high enough rate to provide a basic service. Though at first glance all of these raised examples may seem fairly innocuous questions that we could end up facing on a daily basis out of chance, as explained, everything really does revolve around politics.

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Politics is more important than ever before now. As it stands -- and this was said in 2016 by American media during their election -- we are at the precipice of global political revolution, not just in any one country, but on an international, widespread scale. When we look at what is happening around the entire world, what we see is that there is now the seeds being planted for a global movement that could be shaped to finally achieve genuine, positive change on the behalf of millions of people left behind by the fast-moving world we all live in, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis that left millions homeless or further indebted to big money and the top 1%. There’s, when we look at America, a rapidly mobilising leftist, populist movement to elect politicians such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-V) to the Presidency, and even in down the ballot races such as the political upset of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s victory over moderate Democrat Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District, or self-proclaimed progressive Shahid Buttar in his challenge against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to represent California’s 12th District. And, when we look across the world, the same sense is becoming more of a pervading reality on a global level. In France, the yellow vest movement from the grassroots has been fighting for political and economic justice since October in 2018. In Brazil, the election of right-wing demagogue Jair Bolsonaro to their presidency -- and on extremely dubious terms

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involving the bribery of court judges involved in indicting the former president Lula de Silva on apparent corruption charges -- lead to widespread resistance from the left in the country, with protests in 2019. Even in Hong Kong, our own backyard, there has been a renewed sense of political engagement and involvement against prior systems ever since the introduction of the controversial extradition bills last year in June -- making these demonstrations the longest lasting in recent memory for our city. There is now, undeniably, the energy in the global masses for change that they want, a force to choose our future, between the policies perpetuated by demagogues such as Trump, Bolsonaro, and others in that group -- including India’s Modi or Iran’s Ali Khamenei -- or the alternative of politicians that will represent the masses instead of economic, social, and cultural elites. Now is the time to act, now is the time to get involved with the current circumstances existing, to strike while the iron is hot.

ally, politics will inevitably affect all of our lives. And when we get out of our current homes, when the ability to vote, to organise in politics, is afforded to us, we must seize it with both hands. Even if we don’t want to become the most hardcore, most invested people in fighting against what we view as oppression, we still have a responsibility to at least know what’s going on around us, so that if we need to eventually we can speak out. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”

ISSIA Podcast EP1: Political Apathy

A ‘Doomsday Clock’ on time to act. Beyond the actual Doomsday Clock itself -- yes, that’s a thing, an annual countdown invented by scientists to track humanity’s progress towards the possibility of global catastrophe, -- there is increasing evidence that humanity is simply running out of time to act to avert catastrophe caused by the politics of our time, the legislative agendas of people in lawmaking halls that are failing to act. For just one major global issue, climate change, the research of scientists is clear: we have less than 11 years left to avert catastrophe and transform all our energy systems away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainability. By the time most of us are out of college, that will have become half a decade. And that’s just the single issue of climate change -- imagine the negative impact on thousands, millions of lives, of neglecting other pieces of legislation such as much needed gun reform in the USA or, perhaps, the housing price crisis in Hong Kong. On the whole, it is incredibly imperative that we all get involved now, that we all start caring about politics now to make sure that we all have a future tobelieve in. Really, most of us reading articles such as these may be coming at them from the perspective that we’re too young to care, that we needn’t form opinions about politics because it simply doesn’t affect us -- but that’s only that it hasn’t affected us yet, necessarily. Eventu12

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entrification: it seems this term has been awarded the buzz-word status in recent years, circulating around twitter feeds, editorials, Vox-style video essays and academic discourse in all parts of the world. From the trendy coffee shops of Brooklyn, New York to the new posh boutiques and shiny Prets of Inner London (where the term was first coined all the way back in 1964), the impacts of this phenomenon have been discussed, contested and debated about time and time again, only heating as the years progress. But what about Hong Kong? For those familiar with the issue, its presence here is not only recognizable but hard to ignore. But perhaps with the massive pile of socio-political issues we’ve been bombarded with here as of late, it hasn’t been given enough time in the spotlight. But perhaps, it should. In fact, as members of the international school community, we ought to be paying a lot more attention than we have been.

But what is gentrification, exactly? Google the definition of gentrification and you’ll find this: the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to a middle-class taste. In more general terms, gentrification is Wan Chai as the title suggests— once a bustling area filled with tenements for working-class families and busy lopg cal shophouses, now more closely associated (to 13

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us, especially) with the upscale label shops dotted throughout Lee Tung Avenue, the cool new restaurants with feed-beautifying delicacies and interiors and all the swanky, flashy nightclubs strewn all around the district. But what’s so bad about that? Sure we love those things, but under all its upscale, cool, swanky surface, there lies the ugly reality and the very reason of the term’s negative association, that is, the fact that when these new, fancier amenities and stores arrive in a disinvested, largely low-income area (e.g. Wan Chai), the property value of the area surges rapidly and consequently, so does the rent. Eventually, the longtime, low-income residents and businesses become unable to catch up with the soaring rent prices and are forced into displacement from their own communities, further disadvantaging the already disadvantaged. While there are numerous causes to gentrification, the general appeal and underlying reason for its implementation can be pointed to the fact that it makes profit— a ton of it at that. As such, it is generally agreed upon that gentrification is a by-product of capitalism; an argument used in both opposing and justifying the issue. With the case of Wan Chai, it was brought about by the government by way of the development of the “Urban Renewal Authority” in 2001, in which the government be13

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gan to collaborate with private investors to invest in such areas considered “old” and “decaying” to “rejuvenate” them, so as to attract a new demographic with more affluent/profit-generating tastes. While this has brought about the cafes and shops that we so often frequent, it has also raised a series of uncomfortable but unignorable questions regarding clashes of class and culture. Take LEE TUNG AVENUE, for example. We’ve all seen our fair share of Instagram posts featuring the state-of-the-art lanterns that hang above the lane of big-shot brands occupying the ornate buildings reminiscent of colonial Hong Kong— our very own mini-Rodeo Drive, if you will. But before this came to be, not so long ago, it was once known as Wedding Card Street— home to a thriving community of local families and shops specializing in the printing business. This all flipped with the announcement of its demolition and redevelopment by the aforementioned Urban Renewal Authority in 2003, which was faced with large-scale uproar from its affected members who then pushed forth a proposal to keep the tenement buildings which served as homes for the members of the community; but this was ultimately rejected and the demolition of the whole street went on. While the URA did offer compensation for former owners of 40,000 HKD per square feet, this was only roughly 17% of the actual land worth following the redevelopment, which was at 230,000 HKD per square feet, further angering former community members. Businesses which relocated to other surrounding streets were reported to suffer according to the Apple Daily News, with many reluctantly deciding to close permanently following the demolishing of the street. But to the community in question, the issue was always more than just about business and money. While that was definitely a substantial aspect (the most, to some), many sought for the preservation of the area in regard to its socio-cultural and historic significance, arguing that the demolishing of the area would be destructive to the relationships and sense of community that had been carefully cultivated over a long period of time. For others, it represented a sort of “cultural erasure” by the government and private corporations, following the general trend of opinion on gentrification across the world. Claims of gentrification being code for class colonisation or dishonouring the cultural atmosphere of the area are not at all uncommon among the most negatively affected stakeholders and understandably so. However, this is not to say that the fundamental concept of gentrification is bad. Investing in disinvested and neglected areas is worth doing, but it is when gentrification is used to capitalize on the affected community without giving back to its

people in any way that it becomes a problem and it almost always does, as seen in all too many cities across the world. Now we see Wan Chai very much divided. There’s shiny Wan Chai and old Wan Chai, or rather gentrifying Wan Chai and not-yet gentrifying Wan Chai. The fancy Wan Chai and the kind of Wan Chai you might only see again in an old postcard or a scene from a Wong Kar-Wai movie. As we see more and more local businesses shutting down and locking up while new bakeries, cafes, boutiques and bars take their places overnight, one can only wonder how long it will be until all that’s left of old Wan Chai is inevitably succumbed to the lucrative profiteering by developers and the government. Further questions also arise: where will the displaced go when accessible housing is already so scarce in Hong Kong? What does uncontrolled gentrification mean for the future of Hong Kong, culturally? It seems that under the current status quo, the very streets with the flower markets, meat markets, neon signs and other quintessential Hong Kong icons we love to take photographs of and post on our Instagrams may very well go endangered in the decades to come— possibly sooner than we expect. But more importantly, the very people who we have to thank for these treasured things are being forced and kicked out of their longtime communities, many of whom have been there for generations— all while investors and developers make more money and the privileged have another place to spend their money in. So what can we do about it? Under this economy — not much. Solving the harmful effects of gentrification requires extensive systematic change, but in the meantime, we can spread the word and familiarize ourselves with this issue further. This piece only touches the very surface of gentrification and there are so many other facets to this issue worth knowing about. As international school students (as well as staff and parents) with predominantly welloff backgrounds who preach “international mindedness”, it is imperative that we check our privileges in regard to such local issues as so often do we form our actions and assumptions based on the ignorance that comes with status. So the next time you find yourself in Wan Chai or really anywhere for a quick bite, instead of flocking to a new trendy restaurant you could almost definitely find in any other city in the world, maybe consider a local place unique to Hong Kong instead and for a much more practical cost at that. Support the local businesses that help preserve the charm of this culture-rich city beyond the ever growing ritz and commercial pomp — while you still can.


Tungsten Tang (CDNIS)

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THE DISAPPEARING DOLPHINS OF TAI O Ewan Windeback (Rosaryhill Secondary School) Artwork by Sky Chen (GSIS) Off the coast of Tai O, a local fisherman points off into the near distance at seemingly nothing. Out of nowhere, a majestic creature springs out of the sea. It splashes down, creating rippling waves that rock the boat as he marvels. Mr Chan, the fisherman, recalls when Hong Kongers first started realising we had such incredible-looking, pink-shaded torpedoes in the waters a decade ago. Yes, the very same Hong Kong that is leading the world’s business sector, an international standard and role model for infrastructure, a city that became a cultural hub. A city with some of the least bio-diverse terrain in the world, but that did not stop the pg Chinese White Dolphin calling the city their home. 17

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“The dolphins were the pride and joy for people in Tai O” said Chan humbly, “it made us different, it gave us something unique.” These dolphins had been in Hong Kong waters for centuries, splashing around with no qualms, and it remained like that for many years. Capitalizing on the mammal’s uniqueness, Mr Chan and many more started offering tours to go see the dolphins on their fishing boats. “It was just another way to earn an extra dollar or two, we did not intend to cause any harm to the animals,” Mr Chan explains. It was not long before Tai O became a major tourist attraction – not only for their stilt houses or their way of life, but also as a prime spot to catch a glimpse of the dolphins. With the increased demand for tours came an increased supply, with companies beginning to operate larger ferries around the area. “I was never threatened by them, we were all there just to make a living, right?” Mr Chan said humbly, “But then I started noticing some abnormal behaviour from the dolphins.”

happened after that, we all do...” said Chan with despair in his eyes, “The big guys never listen to people like us, just the small guys at the back of the room.” The airport went ahead as planned despite the opposition from people like Chan, formally opening on the 2nd of July, 1998. The airport introduced a whirlwind of pollution to the area. As the airport had to be built on land reclaimed from the oceans by sea dredgers, a large quantity of ships and construction waste left the area contaminated with harmful toxins threatening the lives of the dolphins. Not to mention the noise pollution from the construction of the airport and aeroplanes which affects the dolphin’s way of communication - echo-location.

“Dolphins became increasingly more difficult to spot come the late 80s” Chan says, the smile wiped off his face, “but when you did spot one, you were bound to find a pack.” Mr Chan’s recollections match reports released by experts, many saying that as the dolphins became very aware of all the water activity around them, they started becoming more defensive: minimizing the number of times they had to resurface, resurfacing for a shorter time span and always staying in groups for safety in numbers.

Just as Chan and many others feared , the airport seriously hindered the survival of the dolphins , and the data proves it: According to WWFHK , between 2003 to 2013 , the number of Chinese White Dolphins in Hong Kong’s waters dwindled from the already small 159 individuals to an incredibly meagre 61. That is a whopping 60 % decline in a decade , and that figure is bound to increase . With infrastructure projects such as the HK-ZhuhaiMacau bridge and the new intercity cross border ferry terminal at HKIA , the ocean traffic in local waters will increase tremendously , which will worsen the noise pollution problem in the area.

“We thought we were the problem!” Mr Chan exclaims sadly “We (the people of Tai O) loved the dolphins, we stopped offering tours so that we could give the dolphins their natural habitat back.” Little did Chan know at the time that his tours actually helped the creatures, by raising awareness for their existence. This became clear to Mr Chan in the early 90s, when the plans for to construct a new airport at Chek Lap Kok.

“I do not want to lose the dolphins, I am sure no one wants to lose the dolphins.” Chan said. It may seem like a lost cause, but Chan still believes they can be saved. “All it takes is cooperation with the government,” suggests Chan. A water exclusion zone for vessels, regulation on the airways to keep aircrafts from flying over their habitat, even a dedicated taskforce or steering committee dedicated to monitoring and helping the dolphins.

“I never went to school, so I do not know how to read or write, so I had a hard time understanding what this airport would mean for us. All I knew was that this airport would harm the dolphins greatly.” said Chan. Him and many other locals joined forces to oppose the project, even successfully applying for a judicial review. “But you know what

Even you at home could help. Avoid leaving trash at the beach or in the ocean, boycotting the ferry services in the Pearl River Delta region and use land-based transportation instead. Chan sums it up perfectly with his last words to me before I left, “Actions can be taken at the loss of your own convenience, but not taking any action results in the loss of life.” 18

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Mental Health In Asian Society: the Paradigm Shift? Introduction Amidst a strangulating culture of perfection, where lies the room for mental health? Therein lies the problem, although progress has been made, socio-cultural barriers continue to foreground the progress of mental health. Indeed, a “paradigmatic shift” takes time, especially given that such cultural elements are inextricable with tradition; tradition entrenched within the collective consciousness. We have been accustomed to quick and obvious results, looking at quantifiable data on a macro-scale. Unfortunately as such, mental health continued to be trivialised and stigmatised despite increased social awareness, even with ever-increasing suicide rates: a study by City University found that a third of pupils aged between 10 and 14 in Hong Kong exhibit potential suicide risk. Mental health is an issue in which its exigency cannot continue to be ignored. 89% of respondents from a recent MindHK study agree that there is a need to adopt a far more tolerant attitude

toward people with mental illness. Yet, the same study reveals that 40% of respondents believe that one of the main causes of mental health illnesses arise from a “lack of self-discipline and willpower”. This leaves much to be desired. Ranging from an overburdened education system obsessed with grades and metrics , to unending , toilsome work hours creating a culture in which overtime is expected, breathing room is seemingly non - existent ; this veritably affects the livelihood of individuals . A local study found that one in seven (approximately 1 million ) people in Hong Kong suf fers from some form of mental health issue . Amongst the many variables underpinning such circumstances , an ir - refutable driving force would be the inherent cultural ex- pectations and inhibitions ingrained within society ; these are driven- centrally- by the pursuit of excellence , cultural elements characterize a society that orients itself towards “results”.

Cultural Expectations Societal expectations perpetuates a need for excellence: a positive feedback cycle of achievement that is result-oriented and a negative, depressionary spiral for those they fail. As evidenced by reports by the Hong Kong Paediatric Society and the Hong Kong Paediatric Foundation, academic performance, parental expectations and societal pressures remain an irrefutable source of mental health problems. Moreover, traditional elements of Chinese culture emphasises transcendence through determination and as aforementioned, “willpower” - indeed, beliefs vastly intertwined with normative ideals of masculinity, an equally problematic conception. In China, with the persistence

of traditional ideations, mental health remains heavily stigmatised, if not entirely a taboo. Hong Kong, with comparatively “liberal” tendencies (the bustling city of multiculturalism!) has given rise to increased accessibility to mental health provisions - albeit slowly and not without public stigma. From the same research conducted by MindHK, it is revealed that nearly three quarters stated that their workplace did not provide mental health provisions for staff, with calls for this remaining on the fringes. More often than not, psychological wellbeing is seen as a luxury left to the eccentric and the wealthy.

Normative Conceptualisations of Success As evident in countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, success is defined within comparatively narrow parameters, exemplified by the ever-growing - patently lucrative - tutoring industry, in which academic attainment remains a core value. It is estimated that market sales of private tuition will generate around $4.7 billion this year. This largely unregulated market, befitting Hong Kong’s non-interventionist system, is here to stay. Many founders of tuition

companies are now fabulously wealthy and famous, with posters on advertisements portraying them as a cross between James Bond and Steve Jobs. Increasingly, however, academics are but one facet in the pursuit of “excellence”, especially for students. With ‘merely’ academics no longer sufficient to remain competitive in a society known for continually increasing grade averages, extracurriculars are equally pursued


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Reese Wong (STC) Artwork by Anna Thompson (KGV)

and have been equally metricized. These compounding commitments exacerbate - if not preclude - the pursuit of wellbeing and mental health - all by virtue of success as viewed through the lens of traditional thought. Indeed, the “goal” of both academic attainment and the pursuit

of extracurriculars invariably tends towards getting into “big name” universities and, by extension, “pride” and “prosperity”. All in all, certainly a system of honour and dignity.

Revaluation of All Values - Success Redefined? While academic attainment is an important variable in the determination of living standards, the pursuit thereof should be tempered with appropriate regard to mental wellbeing. “Mental health” should be integrated and introduced in the education system in such a manner that is taken seriously and remains engaging. Indeed, for many, mental health remains a topic seldom discussed, as a result, stigmatisation persists. Discussion is undoubtedly one way forward. Moreover, success should be viewed as a multifaceted construct, with mental and social health as necessary constituents. In fact, increasing amounts of research suggest a positive correlation between mental wellbeing and academic attainment. Certainly, even traditional, narrow minded definitions of success and mental health are not contradictory: students who experience mild to moderate depression or anxiety demonstrate more academic difficulties and a lower GPA when compared to non-depressed students.

Cultural Inhibitions In the same vein, the aforementioned cultural expectations lead to inhibitions in help-seeking, seeing it as a weakness and source of shame. Ironically, the supposed “collectivism” of Asian cultures fails to accomodate for a “collective” mental health support system. In Chinese culture, mental health is often associated with shame, weakness and guilt. Superstitious beliefs (such as mental illness being a punishment for ancestor’s sins) - are all characterized under “deviancy”. This could in part be

due to lexical gaps arising from variances in medical systems. The general uncomfortability and lack of understanding gives rise to dismissiveness and thus individuals are reluctant to seek help - for fear of damage to family honour or personal reputation. As demonstrated, the dual notions of shame and honour are interwoven into the Asian cultural fabric.

The Paradigm Shift Public discourse surrounding mental health must continue, which by extension, improves public knowledge and mental health literacy. As noted, a paradigm shift takes time to occur, yet, Hong Kong and other Asian countries must “get in with the times” - all to keep up with great strides in the global climate of mental health, increasingly valuing success as a multifaceted construct. Although the government has indeed introduced mental health

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initiatives in the form of public education programmes. Moreover, allocating HK$135 million in 2010 to set up an integrative community network for people with mental illness, the entrenchment of misguided notions will require concerted efforts from both the public and private sector to resolve. A holistic approach will be needed in the pursuit of the paradigm shift.


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Hannah Montalvo (KGV)

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Adrian Wong (VSA)

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8/6/2020 2:16:43 PM

ISSIA Podcast EP6: Capitalism in Hong Kong

Has Hong Kong Been Built or Destroyed by Capitalism?

In recent years, Hong Kong has been recognised as a global financial centre, the gateway to China, and a well-established free market. But unfortunately, these successes built on capitalism have come with a hidden cost, leaving Hong Kong with unintended consequences – issues that often go overlooked. Beyond the towering skyscrapers and vibrant skylines, several questions come to light: why is Hong Kong in the middle of a housing crisis? Why are there protests? Why is there such a large wealth gap and a lack of welfare for citizens in need? These are all the unintended consequences of capitalism and a free-market economy, and this article will investigate whether capitalism is more of a help or a hindrance to Hong Kong, answering the question: what can we and the government do to help? For 25 consecutive years, the Heritage Foundation has ranked Hong Kong as the world’s freest and most capitalistic economy with the highest economic freedom score of 90.2. What does that mean? The Merriam-Webster definition of capitalism is: “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.” Hong Kong has been commended for its economic resilience, high-quality rule of law, low tolerance for corruption, a high degree of government transparency, efficient regulatory framework and openness to global commerce. Just by observing the growth of the stock market, GDP, and per capita GDP over the last 20 years, it is evident that HK’s economy has improved exponentially as a result of capitalism. This economic and political system in which trade and industry in HK are controlled by the private sector rather than the gov24

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Jessica Poon (CIS) Artwork by Bernice Chong (DGS)

ernment has allowed HK to make significant advancements in its economy. As seen by the freedom of capital, free capital markets and the vibrant stock exchange, the numbers prove that capitalism has helped our city. However, there are pros and cons to every economic system. The downside of a capitalist and a free-market approach is that it tends to create a competitive environment based on the survival of the fittest. In a free-market economy, certain members of society will not be able to work, along with others who are unemployed because their skills are not marketable. Because wealth in these economies is not distributed equally, they will be left behind by the economy at large and, without any income, fall into poverty. Recently, Hong Kong has fallen victim to these exact issues, facing consequences such as housing and land shortages, an increasing wealth gap, and the lack of support for smaller businesses and blue-collar workers. Furthermore, Hong Kong has the world’s longest working hours and the highest rents. Wages have not managed to keep up with rent, which has increased by nearly a quarter over the past six years. Housing prices have also more than tripled over the past decade. Hence, many would attribute these social issues to capitalism. Richard D. Wolff, a well-known American Marxist economist claims that capitalism is unstable, unequal and undemocratic, and the recent events in HK seem to prove his point. Capitalism vs. Socialism has been a long-standing debate for decades, where socialism in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the theory of “advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” However, it is commonly misun24

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derstood that socialism is paired with communism, while capitalism is paired with democracy. However, this classification is debatable. Can you have democratic socialism or communist capitalism? I believe that capitalism and socialism define ways of allocating resources, while communism and democracy define ways of selecting a government, and therefore any fixed pairing of these two groups of concepts is superficial. So does HK have a government selection problem or a resource allocation problem? I believe the greater problem to focus on is resource allocation. Firstly, what is the extent of Hong Kong’s housing problem? Hong Kong has been suffering from this persistent land shortage because 7.3 million people are forced to live in a space roughly half the area of Tokyo. “In Hong Kong, residence rights, one of the fundamental human rights, is being ignored,” says Gordon Chick at the Hong Kong Society for Community Organization. On Hong Kong Island, midsize homes are priced at more than HK$200,000 per square meter. Average housing prices are 19 times local residents’ annual income, while estimated repayments of mortgage loans account for 70% of income. These housing issues for a large number of Hong Kong’s population are causing expanding income gaps amongst the city. Why is all this happening? The answer is capitalism, the government, and the business industry. While real estate in Hong Kong accounts for nearly 20% of its gross domestic product, the combined market capitalization of the top four local real estate companies has increased by some $4.52 billion over the past year. Huge real estate companies such as Link REIT have long been buying out land from the market and raising rent prices to unreasonable values, much to the small business owners’ frustration and dismay. Government policies that favor property developers make it even worse. The government makes money off sales of land to property developers, so it paces sales to maximize revenue and favors luxury developments over affordable housing. Continuously rising property prices have shored up the Hong Kong economy and brought prosperity to the city. Though it may seem as though Hong Kong’s economy has flourished because

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of the rising housing prices, what many don’t realise is that the lower-class citizens have been suffering at the hands of these big property developers and business owners. Housing is a societal resource that needs to be efficiently allocated. Therefore, the lack of affordable housing in our city is a good indication of allocative inefficiency as a whole, seeing how Hong Kong can no longer conceal its flaws of solely relying on capitalism. All this begs the question, how bad is Hong Kong’s wealth gap problem? Recently, Hong Kong’s wealth gap has been reaching historic highs, with the richest household now earning about 44 times what the poorest family can scrape together, despite small government efforts to alleviate poverty. The difference between a society’s rich and poor is often measured using the Gini coefficient – an index of how evenly income is distributed on a scale from zero to one. Last year, the figure for Hong Kong was 0.539, with zero indicating equality. This result was the highest in 45 years and the second-highest in the world right behind New York City. Despite this, the wealth gap is actually widening at a slightly slower pace compared to the rise between 2006 and 2011, and this is thanks to the government’s increased efforts to help the impoverished, with an over 40 per cent increase in welfare spending on public housing and medical benefits to the poor. These initiatives and policies are making a difference, which is why the government should continue to consider more socialist policies to support the low-income families that suffer from HK’s wealth increase. Chua Hoi-wai, head of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, called on the government to reconsider a universal pension scheme. “Low-income elderly people are the most vulnerable group in Hong Kong, given the lack of retirement protection,” he said. “A universal pension scheme will effectively prevent the wealth gap from further widening.” Various organisations are urging the current government administration to tackle the problem by introducing rent allowance, reviewing the minimum wage policy and setting poverty reduction targets. These socialist approaches will help make significant strides towards minimising the wealth gap and creating a better Hong Kong for our community.

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Housing and the ever-increasing wealth gap is evidently the root of many frustrations among Hong Kong citizens. Recently, Hong Kong has been greatly affected by huge protests. Anger over the growing power of mainland China in everyday life has fueled the protests, as has the desire of residents to choose their own leaders. But beneath that political anger lurks an undercurrent of deep anxiety over their own economic fortunes — and fears that it will only get worse. Kenneth Leung, a 55-year-old college-educated protester shared the views of the protestors and stated that “We thought maybe if you get a better education, you can have a better income, but in Hong Kong, over the last two decades, people may be able to get a college education, but they are not making more money.” Kenneth Leung works 12 hours a day, six days a week, and only makes $30 an hour. He is also one of the 210,000 Hong Kong residents living in one of the city’s thousands of illegally subdivided apartments. The protests have proven to be another example of the consequences of capitalism and the wealth gap because generally citizens near the bottom of the wealth gap feel motivated to protest in hopes of trying to fix their dire living and working conditions. The protesters say the Chinese government is undermining their independence and that the leaders it chooses for Hong Kong work for Beijing, property developers and big companies instead of the people. “Many young people see there is little way out economically and politically, and it is the background of their desperation and anger at the status quo,” said Ho-fung Hung, a political-economy professor at Johns Hopkins University. These frustrations are channelled into the need for democracy. By fighting for democracy, they hope that they can select a government that is more socialistic and therefore address the wealth gap and various other injustices for the less privileged. Many of the protesters say direct elections would give them a greater say in these crucial economic matters. With all things considered, it is evident that a more socialist government capable of giving the people what they want may actually help to alleviate the protests.

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So what is the solution? Hong Kong’s current laissez faire government does not attract the best talent set for aggressive policies, so for HK to have better socialist policies that can counterbalance the negatives of capitalism, it needs a stronger government that is more involved in all aspects of HK. An example of this approach being successful would be to take a look at Singapore’s government. This prosperous country has a bigger government that has more control over businessnesses, consistent social welfare, effective policies, a well-recognised government housing program, and most importantly, they attract high calibre talent and dedicate them to nationwide initiatives such as the urban renewal authority and the world famous Singapore water desalination project. Therefore, if HK attracted better talent, set more policies, and took more control of the economy, the HK government will achieve a more socialistic society that can counterbalance the negative effects of capitalism. Capitalism may have built HK, but it has also destroyed HK, and only well-implemented socialism will save it. We should implement more socialist approaches while maintaining the benefits of capitalism. This ensures a better allocation of resources that benefit everyone in society, and not just the elite. With this, HK will be able to implement socialism while preserving the benefits of capitalism, bringing us one step closer to a city without protests or communities of people living and working in unfair conditions. HK should strive towards a better government that can groom more capable talent with a vision to create a better future for our city. It’s long been known throughout HK’s history that the most talented people go into the private sector in order to earn more, but perhaps it is time for young and talented people with new ideas and creativity to help by making a change inside the government, setting policies that will design a future that is drastically different from what we have today. I wonder what that future would look like? I imagine a future where everybody has a comfortable place to live, a future where even the less fortunate parts of society can still do well despite the wealth gap, and most importantly, a future where the government can implement policies where capitalism and socialism can coexist together within a harmonious society.

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ISSIA Podcast EP7: Nihilism and our Moden Work Culture

NIHILISM WITHIN OUR MODERN WORK CULTURE Ivan Chiu (STC); Artwork by Tungsten Tang (CDNIS) On Nihilism Up until the 19th century, religion - in the form of Christianity - virtually dominated every aspect of Western society. Every thought and motion that trickled through the web of civilized societies was indivisible from religion. Discoveries, inventions, breakthroughs; all were attributed to God. To call any accomplishment human was heresy; the lesson marked by the grave of Galileo . Ethics, morality, societal values - all were governed solely by those belonging to the Church; devotion to the establishment, therefore, was necessary to validate individuals’ meaning and purpose in life. To do otherwise would have been considered a perverse crime, enacted against the self as well as the community. Such was the life of non-secularism. And yet, by the late 19th century, atheism had firmly established its roots in the core of Western society. All it took was a century to overthrow a belief held at the forefront of humanity for millenia. How did this come to be? Beginning in the 17th century, and unbeknownst to the Church, piles of seasoned, dry firewood had been stacked discreetly beneath the stage on which all major Western societies stood. Undisturbed, a pile became a mound, a mound became a mountain, until it too became a structural behemoth. All it took, then, was for a spark to ignite. Who were these revolutionaries who had inadvertently crafted the beginning of the greatest revolt ever to come upon mankind? To name a few: Newton, Darwin, Descartes, Fahrenheit. It is unclear when the match was lit, but ignite, it did. The unstoppable, rampant wildfire permeated all of Western society, reducing structures where it went to brittle ash and char. No longer did people turn to religion or metaphysics to look for a meaning in life; gone were the days of the absolute and the transcendent. The smoke and the flames cleared. Perched on the ashen remains of the stage was Science. What do we call the scandalous series of events depicted above? The Age of Enlightenment.


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The concept of an omniscient Christian deity was abandoned for rational and evidently perceptible Science; along with this apparent disintegration of faith in the concept of God, went the doctrines that surrounded the entire structure. Judeo-Christian values became the subject of scrutiny and criticism; it became clear that religion could no longer be the foundation of civilization. This realization is evidenced most notably in history by the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who daringly proclaimed: ‘God is dead.’ ‘Whither is God?’ he cried; ‘I will tel l you. We have killed him---you and I.’ Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) What, then, is morality? Nietzsche thought the Judeo-Christian framework of morality - echoed throughout history, from Moses, to Jesus, to Augustine - was by no means a self-evident part of human nature. In the sudden absence of a structured narrative within our lives, humanity confronts the chaos and meaninglessness of life, inevitably plunging into a state of despairing angst. To describe this Godless state of existence, Nietzsche used the term nihilism (nothingness). Industrialization, Capitalism, and the ‘work culture’ Along with the revolution of science and objectivity, the Age of Enlightenment also triggered a wave of industrialisation, fervent and aggressive as never seen before in human history. The newly ‘enlightened’ philosophy emphasizing external objectivity traversed social spheres, becoming not simply its own school of thought, but also shaping an entirely new lifestyle. In a Jungian sense, the introspective style of thought that stood at the basis of Christian teachings was diminished substantially, giving rise to more extroverted personalities that gazed upon externalities with newly polished, curious eyes. Capital, as a means of fuelling materialism, became the determiner of social standing. Those who stood at the top of monetary hierarchies cared not if they spent money in order to fulfill their ‘enlightened’ desires and looked to the rest of society for a source of production; a singular, linear rope had been tossed down to the pits of society. Those who were oppressed and left to dwindle in impoverished darkness, convinced that the spark of light and hope floating ominously at the corner of their view was nothing but a devious act of trickery, scrambled eagerly for their hold on the rope, desperate to escape their stagnating existence. This has led to the emergence of large-scale profit-making factories, production line workers and the continual striving for efficiency and productivity. Since then, our progress in this respect has not receded once, and seems to be continuing in full vigour. With the rise of industrialization and the constant striving for efficient production, it has become evident that the general population gradually shifted their search for meaning from metaphysical spiritual doctrines to externally and socially constructed frameworks. Where do we see this in its clearest and most prominent form? Our modern work culture. The so-called work culture which pervaded civilizations for the majority of human history revolved around the notion that available professions were for the most part bound to an individual’s social standing; social standing was in turn bound to the circumstances of their birth. From Greece, to Rome, to Medieval Europe, rigid, birth-based social structures were an


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incontestable reality: slaves, plebeians, and patricians were all imprisoned by the same structured society. For them, meaning in life was essentially bread, circuses and religion. The Age of Enlightenment toppled the pillar of religion; it liberated social structures from their legal confines. What did we imagine as to be the result of this? Unrestrained by the Church, all citizens would have greater opportunities to climb social structures, pursue their individual passions and become productive contributors to society. What, then, is the reality we observe? Whilst standards of living have risen substantially across all levels of society, the feudalistic levels of inequality that existed for millennia has seemingly maintained itself with equal rigidity and severity. Though capital became the replacement for birthright when determining social standings, Price’s law stands unwavering: slaves became ‘wage slaves’, freedmen became ‘the working class’. Circuses became tabloids, Netflix, YouTube… The pyramid remains intact. What of religion? Mainstream society has thrown a bag over God’s head and painted it green. Social standing and capital have replaced God, signalled by an increasing emphasis on career and productivity as the source of meaning in life. It is also for this reason that over the years, the career has become synonymous with the self. What happens when one struggles to identify with one’s career? An annual survey of job satisfaction, beginning in 1987, revealed that three decades ago, job satisfaction stood at 61.1%. However, in 2010, job satisfaction plummeted to an all-time-low of 42.6%. Another study performed in 2015 revealed that 1 in 4 Americans felt they were not making a meaningful contribution to the world through their career. When one struggles to find meaning in one’s career but can no longer turn to religion, one feels alienated, forced to confront the despairing meaninglessness of existence. Nihilism characterizes the marking of every thought with a foreboding sense of purposelessness. Most of us repress this dread and resort to following the rest of society, becoming one of the monotonous ‘clout chasing’ herd. This is no sustainable solution. From 2017 to 2018, the number of workplace suicides in the US rose by a staggering 11%; this horrifying trend is echoed in wider American society, where suicide rates have steadily increased by 33% since 1999, evidencing a wider societal issue[3]. Meaning is what sustains the will to live; meaninglessness has the ability to render a person’s mental fortitude into dust. Though one’s career is not the only source of meaning in life, the increasing pressure and emphasis on a career as the only meaningful pursuit is by no means a triumph of modernity. Windowless corridors, chartered cubicles, incessant murmuring, indifferent deadlines, indifferent workers, indifferent societies. The 9-5 office job, composed primarily of menial administrative tasks, and unfulfilling responsibilities, is an unfortunate reality for the majority of the working class. The crisis of meaning derived from the corpse of religion has yet to be properly addressed, manifesting itself as a fatally pernicious issue growing within modern society. It is clear that society as a whole needs to have a proper discussion and to reconsider its priorities, or humanity is doomed to suffer subsequently dire consequences with no apparent way out. 30

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Angel Li (DGS)

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Tiffenne Larose (RCHK)

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youth mental health Interview with Coolminds HK

What is Coolminds? Can you give us some background on the founding, mission and goals of this project? Coolminds, a joint initiative between Mind HK and KELY Support Group, works to improve the mental health of young people in Hong Kong through training, information sharing, online resources, destigmatisation, as well as providing support for the adults around them. Mission and Vision To educate and empower young people to look after themselves and those around them. To improve the mental health of young people, and ensure no young person has to face a mental health problem alone in Hong Kong. What has Coolminds raised awareness about the stigma surrounding youth mental health so far? Coolminds has been using our pilot school trainings for students, parents and educators to raise the issue of stigma surrounding mental health in Hong Kong. We specifically talk about what is stigma and how this affects our views of mental health and ways we can all contribute to the de-stigmatization of mental health

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in Hong Kong. In our workshops, we specifically discuss how we value our physical health and seek help if we have any problems. However, help-seeking behaviour for mental health issues is delayed due to the stigma attached. In addition to our training, we have partnered with mental health organisations overseas to be able to bring best practices and resources to Hong Kong. These resources including anti-stigma resources will be available on our website. Are there any significant events or campaigns that Coolminds is hoping to create and host in the future? The Coolminds website will be launched within the next few weeks. Coolminds will be helping Mind HK to host the Youth Summit which will be a part of the Hong Kong Mental

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Health conference in November 2020. As discussed earlier, we also have mental health trainings for students, parents and teachers which are run throughout the year. Which aspect of youth mental health management do you think Hong Kong is lacking the most in and why? How can this aspect be worked upon? The shortage of professional help to meet the de-mands of mental health services continues to be a problem. The number of public sector psychiatrists per 100,000 people is 4.6 in Hong Kong, versus 8.59 for high income countries. The wait time for someone not considered high risk can vary from 38 weeks to 3 years. There also remains an imbalance between schools in terms of the number and approachability of school counsellors and social workers. While some schools have a good ratio of counsellors to students, others may only have 1 for the entire school. Hence, at Coolminds we are working on a wholeschool approach to mental health training and pro-gram. We want young people, parents and teachers to know it is okay to talk about mental health, how to identify signs of distress and how to help young people. Another aspect which is helpful is peer-support. Research has found that the first person young people approach regarding any distress is their peers. Hence, guiding young people to be empathetic and provid-ing support to their peers during stressful times plays an important role in improving youth mental health. Is there a key point that Coolminds wishes to empha-sise in regards to how adults should go about improv-ing the mental health of youths, whether they be rel-atives or academic staff? What Coolminds hopes the adults around youth will have a good understanding of mental health to 1. Take care of their own mental health and 2. To have the resources to be able to reach out and help these young people when there is a need. Do you have any advice to give to youths who are en-deavouring to promote youth mental health aware-ness in their communities?

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We would encourage them to not give up and to not be ashamed to start small within their friend circles. if schools are supportive of helping organise school wide events, this is also beneficial. As previously mentioned, peer- support, just listening and being there for your friend in times of need can make a great difference. Sometimes it’s not doing something big, but in the way young people conduct themselves and their attitude towards mental health that sets the right way forward. What do you think the future holds for the youth in terms of the mental health situation in Hong Kong? With the uncertainty of the future in the midst of COVID-19, mental health in youth and adults in Hong Kong will be having a tough time as we continue to makeadjustments to what is normal. Students in Hong Kong already have several factors of stress such as aca- demics or relationships. Hence, the current situation has alsocaused an increase in further stress and anxiety. We at Coolminds will continue to keep our ears to the ground to walk with young people and the adults around them through our resources and trainings. If people want to get involved with Coolminds, how can they do this and what can they do? Coolminds has a summer internship program for youth. We are also continuously updating our blogs and personal stories on our website and are always looking for contributions. In addition, as Coolminds is a bilingual website aiming at all youth in Hong Kong, we are continuously seeking translators from English to/from traditional Chinese. Our Coolminds website will be launching soon. Check out the ‘Get Involved’ page at to seek out all the available opportunities to get involved. In the meantime, please email us at hello@coolminds. hk if you are interested ingetting involved. What is one message that Coolminds would like to send to Hong Kong youths who are in need of mental health support? It’s okay to not be okay. The most important thing is that you know where to reach out for help and that you are not afraid to do so. 34

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Hannah Montalvo (KGV)


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Hong Kong’s Ageing Population - An Overview Selina Yeung (SIS); Artwork by Adeline Cheung (DGS) As students in Hong Kong, we’re all well versed in a myriad of issues today - that is, the most prevalent, media-covered issues. Walk up to any classmate and they will rattle off a lengthy list of problems with ease. The world appears to be crashing down around our ears, to the surprise of no one, and there’s not one issue off the tip of their tongue that would take you aback.

of unprecedented technological advancement, which in turn increases life expectancy. Growth in the elderly population is indicative of overall decline in mortality and fertility rates, and driven by improvements in medicine, sanitation, and food supply. In short, people are living longer. It is undoubtedly a positive indicator of substantial welfare advancement and our ability to prevent premature death.

But here’s one that might:

However, as with all good things, there are flipsides - for the first time, the world faces the challenges of an ageing population.

The world is growing older. What does that mean, exactly? In demographic terms, population ageing is an increase in the median age of a population. We are living in an age

The age group of people 65 and above is growing faster than any other, with

Hong Kong expecting one in every three people to be older than 65 by 2066. As we undergo large-scale social transformation, there are, as always, economical implications. This is mainly prevalent in countries most affected by population ageing - i.e. developed economies like Hong Kong. We face a shortage of labour as retirees gradually outnumber new workers. It is challenging for an economy that lacks qualified workers to fill in-demand jobs, which in turn fuels the likelihood of experiencing economic slowdowns. Similar labour shortages exist in the healthcare system. Given that demand for healthcare services rises with an aging population, countries facing population ageing must

invest in more money and resources for their healthcare sector as the population continues to age. As healthcare spending is already high in advanced countries, it is difficult to increase spending while simultaneously ensuring high quality functioning of other social services. In addition, Hong Kong’s dependency ratio is expected to jump from 198 in 2014 to 567 by 2064, meaning each elderly person will be supported by only 1.8 people of working age. As in other developed countries, the shrinking population means costs of elderly care are being shunted down generations. This is evidenced in the sinister upside-down family pyramid known as “4-2-1” in China, where four grandparents and two parents are ultimately supported by a single child. Younger generations of workers are being forced to bear the brunt of an ageing population without robust policy in place to help them. Population ageing is especially concerning for Hong Kong because we have an ultra-low fertility rate (which will only compound the problem) of 1.1 children per woman - the reason for which is inextricably linked to issues such as high living cost. With the culmination of these factors, heightened fiscal stress due to population ageing is inevitable. Not only are Hong Kong’s proceeding generations vulnerable to population ageing - the current ageing population are particularly susceptible victims of discrimination, poverty and neglect. Hong Kong has a pervasive stigma against the older generation - they are considered ‘old and worthless’ and a ‘burden’ on society. This is a misguided portrayal and stark underestimation of the productive contributions elders make to society. Contrary to popular belief, though they are retired, elders frequently engage in valuable activities such as taking care of grandchildren and the house or participating in volunteer work. Con-

versely, a number of elders - many of whom are neglected by family members - are unable to fully realize their potential and live out a good quality of life, or are simply not encouraged to engage in community activities. We need to remove the depiction of elders as a ‘problematic’ group before we can promote their engagement in society. The ignorant perception of elders as ‘worthless’ is indirectly perpetuated by the government. There is insufficient support for Hong Kong’s ageing population. The government’s most popular financial assistance initiative, the Old Age Living Allowance, offers a monthly payment of up to HK$2600 and is a pertinent example of lacking support. It’s even dubbed “生果金” or “fruit money” as these handouts are too paltry to pay for much else. Many elderly people were previously low-income workers and currently have no form of pension. Another example of lacking support is one we are all familiar with - in a city enjoying one of the world’s longest life expectancies and booming economic growth, numerous ‘cardboard grannies’ make a living scavenging for scraps and boxes, barely scraping by. The government regards cardboard collectors as unlawful, consequently providing next to zero health and safety protection for them. How is it possible that we have normalized elderly poverty, as if it’s merely an embarrassing stain on our luxury-brand clothes? It is an ugly, undeniable truth - Hong Kong is struggling to support its ageing population. On that note, while the challenges of population ageing are great, they are not insurmountable. Hong Kong can turn to other countries who have introduced measures to alleviate some of the strain for inspiration. Japan, with one of the largest ageing populations in the world, has introduced a series of measures - like the New Angel Plan (1999) and the Plus One

Policy (2009) - designed to increase fertility rate through schemes such as allocating funds to childcare and educational facilities. To combat poverty and ageism, Jerusalem organized an age 60+ employment centre to increase employer awareness about the value of older workers. Hong Kong needs to encourage longer career-span by raising retirement ages, which would not only generate more private resources for retirement and income tax revenue for government support, but would also decrease the widening gap between life expectancy and retirement, diminishing workforce shortage. The city should explore ways to offer elders opportunities in the labour market and help them in social engagements. Promoting health among the general population will also have a direct impact on population ageing, as healthier individuals have enhanced productivity, labour market participation, higher saving rates and lower medical expenses. Unfortunately, we are far from achieving these goals and many barriers still stand in the way of elderly employment; including costly health insurance, ageism in recruitment or the workplace and rigid work schedules. Determining adequate responses and policies to the issues will take extensive investment and research. According to data from World Population Prospects, the number of persons aged 80+ is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050. Population ageing is a problem that won’t disappear anytime soon. Though there are grassroots organizations and NGOs striving to help the ageing population, we still need heightened global awareness and all our combined efforts before any of the problems on that list are going to be taken down. We cannot be apathetic and put the problem out of mind.

Adrian Wong (VSA)

Adrian Wong (VSA)

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RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IN HONG KONG Jamie Hui (KGV); Artwork by Bernice Chong (DGS) and Timothy Chow (DBS)

Restorative justice is the practice of allowing offenders to communicate with their victims. The process is considered therapeutic for victims without taking away offenders’ punishments as they both confront the crimes’ causes and effects. Due to its educational and corrective nature, restorative justice is most applicable for juvenile crime. Despite this, Hong Kong has one of the few governments that chooses not to incorporate restorative justice into the judicial system. In 2007, the Hong Kong government announced that they would not support the official use of restorative justice, claiming it could be “sending a wrong message to the public that the balance is being tilted too much towards helping the offender” and that current measures were already successful in their efforts to reduce recidivism. However, as Hong Kong has seen a rise in youth crimes as of 2019, restorative justice has once again been proposed, with supporters claiming it will massively reduce Hong Kong’s rate of reoffense. According to crime statistics from The Hong Kong Police Website, the youth crime rate -- that is, crimes done by people aged 16-20 -- increased in 2019 to 3128 counts, ending Hong Kong’s previously declining crime rate. It is suggested that this influx in crimes was caused by demonstrations triggered by the extradition bill, as students in high school and university would commonly boycott school to protest.


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With this information in mind, restorative justice is the best-suited option and should be considered for crimes in Hong Kong, as it has been shown to be effective in resolving youth crimes across a multitude of communities. In 2012, a study was conducted to develop tactics and evaluate current programs’ effectiveness in reducing youth crime within the aboriginal regions of Wadeye, Australia. This 3-year longitudinal study used a variety of methods to create diversionary schemes predominantly focused on Similarly, South Africa’s Child Justice Act is also an important case study in proving the benefits of restorative justice. As South Africa revamps their youth criminal justice system, they assess and analyze South Africa’s socio-legal history, drawing special attention to youth crimes. They evaluate restorative justice in their system and find it beneficial to have both victim and offender be “centrally involved” in the proceeding. Additionally, this case study serves as an example of how Hong Kong should evaluate the current measures to prevent re-offense. Through their investigation, South Africa found tensions and issues within their legal system towards youths as they work towards improvement in child justice courts, further reinforcing the importance of restorative justice in both South Africa and other regions like Hong Kong. One strength of restorative justice is that it helps both victim and offender. 85% of victims report feeling satisfied as restorative justice helps them remove the feeling of victimization and receive closure. For offenders, restorative justice helps them understand how their actions have affected others and how to learn from their experiences. Moreover, there is evidence that restorative justice helps reduce recidivism by 14%. On the other hand, One weakness of restorative justice is that it seems to be targeted to a very specific group as it is mainly effective for minors or first-time offenders. Restorative justice is also criticized for the lengthy process and preparation needed, including needing to recruit a mediator and ensure all participants are willing and have as little stress as possible. Despite this, restorative justice is still a much better alternative and less costly than having to deal with re-offenders. Clearly, restorative justice shows great ability in reducing the rate of reoffense but even more so, shows substantial potential in curtailing Hong Kong’s increasing rate of youth crimes. Of course, it is important to recognize the underlying motives and beliefs of these recorded crimes. As social issues continue to rise in Hong Kong, youth misconduct seems to have begun taking a route of fervour and ardour rather 47

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youths, especially youth gangs promoting antisocial behaviour. In their research, they found that restorative justice was particularly useful for indigenous juveniles. With the associated stress of a court process gone, and using restorative justice practices like family conferencing, the youth was less likely to re-offend. Furthermore, the study emphasizes youth backgrounds in their community to build a positive rapport with the community as a whole.

than general petty crime, as evident in the protests. With this ever-changing state of our society, we must continue to challenge whether our judicial system will be able to or should prevent the actions for a passionate cause. Even so, I strongly call for a change in Hong Kong’s criminal justice system to involve restorative justice to construct a positive foundation for the future of our society. 48

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Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong and Language Barriers Noor Rizvi (IS) Hong Kong loves to boast its reputation of being Asia’s world city, from in-your-face television ads to giant billboards plastered across the city - but what really goes on behind the facade of a flourishing economic capital? Let us pull back the curtain of pretense and find out what really goes on beneath the guise of flashing neon lights and soaring skyscrapers. In the winding streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, one of

learning the language and thus, integration into

Hong Kong’s popular shopping districts, stands

society and the job market. Chinese University as-

an infamous building - ChungKing Mansions. The

sistant professor, Raees Baeg (SCMP, 2016) stated

name might seem popular as the building was

“Ultimately, it’s not just the lack of skills keeping

the namesake of the famous 1994 Wong Kar Wai

them from being hired, it’s also about discrimi-

film ChungKing Express. Formerly a place for high

nation.” She believes that the government has

end shoppers and clubbers in the 60’s during the

the wrong attitude, further asserting that poverty

British era, it is now known for its sleazy reputation

and inability of these minorities to find work is not

after having faced many fires. As the hotspot for

because of an issue with quality of labour. She

illicit drug deals and other nefarious activities, it is

stated, “You see the shift in government rhetoric,

now mainly populated by ethnic minorities, often

because of poverty, the government is pushing to

from Africa or South Asia, who came to HK looking

expand into the labour force,” stating that they

for work and money and are thrusted into a world

were put into the “working poor category”, and

of crime from the get go. Although many activities

lastly noting that “there is no racial sensitivity in

inside the building are illegal, for many residing

government policies”.

within, they are the only possible way to make money in a city as fast paced and expensive as

The basis of this language barrier runs deep into

Hong Kong. Many of the workers aren’t able to

the flawed Hong Kong education system; minor-

find jobs due to the immense language barriers

ities are being set up to fail and there’s nothing

in place, as well as the numerous stereotypes

they can do about it. International schools that

perpetuated and pitted against minorities of

follow an English medium are often expensive

any kind. A government survery showed that 62%

and are, for many marginalised minorities, not an

percent of ethnic minorities said they had faced

option. So now we approach the topic of English

discrimination when attempting to apply for jobs

medium local schools, although there are a few,

on the basis of not being able to speak Chinese,

there are nowhere near enough schools for a city

even in jobs where linguistic skill in Chinese wasn’t

whose EM (Ethnic Minority) population has grown


by 115% between 2006 and 2016 - many of the schools are notorious for also having heavy illegal

In 2013, the government organised a “Chinese as

substance usage among the student body and

a second language” programme in an effort to

other such activities that may not be ideal con-

provide ethnic minorities with a second chance at

ditions for a student to learn, grow up and flourish

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in. In addition to this, the majority of these schools

market. Firstly, the government should begin to

are not readily equipped to take on a large in-

subsidise schools with a significant EM population.

flux of students and are already overwhelmed as

They should also begin to establish more schools

places are limited. Sending EM children to local

for EM students with teachers who are prepared

schools in the hopes that they manage to assimi-

to teach and have an overriding authority per-

late and manage to adapt with the government’s

forming checks on these schools to moderate

rather unsuccessful assisted learning programme

teachers, but to also ensure that issues like illicit

isn’t exactly the safest bet as 38% of Hong Kong

activities are prevented and that the values of

teachers said that they are unprepared and

education are reinforced. There are many ex-

unequipped to cater to the needs of a non-Can-

amples of nations that have achieved successful

tonese speaking child - apparently, neither is

solutions - let us take Singapore as an example.

the government. The current system is forcing

Chinese, Malays and Indians living together in

non-native speakers to take a Chinese exam that

peace, they are able to learn both their native

is already dreaded by native speakers and is infa-

language and English. Although enforcing a single

mously known as the ‘death paper’. This is simply

language in all schools isn’t a viable solution in HK

unreasonable, but there’s no alternative. To add

due to the impending erasure of the Cantonese

to this, a study conducted found that EM students

language, there are principles we can implement.

are only being taught Cantonese to the fluency

Issues based around discrimination have been

of a Form 3 student resulting in them being left

touched on lightly, solving that is a step forward

behind their fellow peers.

- in Singapore, every year they commemorate vicious race riots that took place in the late 60’s.

So this leaves us with the question, what can

They do this by organising a ‘Racial Harmony Day’

be done? It’s easy to sit here and write a raging

where everyone wears their traditional clothing

article about the lack of resources provided to

and learns about different cultures to promote

ethnic minorities, however each and every one of

understanding and acceptance of differenc-

us has a responsibility to help all Hong Kongers,

es. Something similar in HK to inform the general

regardless of skin colour or race - whether we

population about the struggles and plight - to

like it or not. We must make improvements to the

maybe encourage cultural sensitivity, and may-

system itself. Although the government has made

be to finally accept them as, despite the cultural

a significant push towards better education for

difference. To really make a difference we must

EM students, they’ve also found an alternative to

educate. Change starts from our children, as the

the Chinese DSE by letting EM students take GCSE

children are the future of our city.

English or GCSE Chinese instead. However, this still doesn’t allow EM students to learn Cantonese properly and therefore limits them from the job 50

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The Plight of Refugees in Hong Kong Author:

Justin Cheng (DBS) Artwork by:

Joy Chen (HISHK)


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In a time when Hong Kong is embroiled in crises like the COVID-19 virus, it is easy to overlook the struggles of a class of people so disenfranchised that they are pushed to the sidelines. And no, it isn’t people at the very lowest echelons of society, people living in literal cage homes or street dwellers, it is people that live in the shadows of legitimate society. These people are refugees, fleeing from oppressive places across the globe; stretching from the mountainous region of Kashmir, which has seen constant militant activity to the blood-infested plains in Rakhine State, Myanmar to the poverty-stricken favelas in Indonesia as they try to strive for a better life in the city that we call home. Hong Kong has always had an intimate relationship with refugees. The aftermath of the Chinese Civil War sent many individuals and families to seek better lives in the

former British colony, with its population growing from 600,000 to 2.1 million between 1945 and 1951. However, the administration’s treatment of refugees changed starkly in the Vietnam War, which saw the vast majority of the refugees either resettled in third countries (around 43,700) while 67,000 were deported back to the Southeast Asian country; only 1,000 individuals were allowed to stay. Furthermore, it is important to indicate that Hong Kong is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, meaning that the only claims made were “non-refoulement”, simply stating that the administration would not return the refugees to their countries of origin. By extension, many rights and access to employment are withheld from them, an aspect which will be investigated later. Despite this, a series of government actions seemed to provide hope for those seeking ref-

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uge in our city: since 2004, a series of rulings by courts which stipulated that immigrants could not be removed when they were waiting for their claims led to an influx of refugees, as well as a 2013 Court of Final Appeal holding, stating that determination of refugee claims is subject to judicial review. To facilitate the process, a Unified Screening Mechanism was formed and this prompted a further surge: the number of claims has soared by 70% from early 2014 to mid-2015. However, this optimistic outlook is vastly unrepresentative and even borderline misleading. Hong Kong has one of the most stringent policies against refugees: with an acceptance rate of 1 percent, the city ranks significantly lower than the global average of 30 per cent and the European average of 60 per cent. According to statistics from the Hong Kong Immigration Department, between late 2009 and June 2019, there were 29,571 “non-refoulement” or torture claims, and out of that number, only 172 were accepted by the government. While the government’s major justification is that it feared potential abuse , it is critical to note that there are other much more nuanced factors at play. Furthermore, many of these screenings can be stretched out for years or even decades, signalling that these asylum seekers’ suffering is visceral and seemingly unceasing. Apart from not being able to work, these people have to rely on social welfare stipends, including a housing allowance of just $HK1,500 and charity donations. However, the persecution they live under might inhibit them from working even if they had the choice to: these refugees have often escaped violent oppression before the bureaucratic nightmare they have to endure: Anita, a 62-year-old asylum seeker from South Asia was brutally tortured by the military in her home country, remarking how she “can’t sleep, can’t eat.” Apart from not having adequate resources to treat her PTSD, her insecurities are magnified as she constantly struggles with her decision of coming to Hong Kong several years ago in the first place. Her fears are only compounded as she is one of many disenfranchised individuals embroiled in the current coronavirus crisis, all due to intensifying paranoia and xenophobia . A chart created by the aforementioned Hong Kong Justice Centre in 2015 analyzes the government ’s correlation between refu gees and words relating to security, which corresponds with the government’s long-standing position of refugees: despite recent developments, an Immigration Department spokesperson stated that Hong Kong had a “long-established policy of not granting asylum and we do not admit individuals seeking refugee status”, fearing that asylum seekers would jeopardize the city’s prosperous economy. The c ivil u nrest spurred on by p olitical resentment has f urther pushed the refugee community to be subject to discrimination, as many netizens accused members of the ethnic minority community of being involved in the infamous July 21 attack in 2019. Brown-skinned men were depicted to be assaulting protesters inside Yuen Long MTR, and since many refugees are ethnically South Asian, African or Middle Eastern, misjudgement has run rampant, especially in Hong Kong which is composed of a vast majority of Han Chinese residents. This sentiment is best encapsulated in a West African asylum seeker’s statement- an 42-yearold known by the name Anthony- “Many asylum seekers are


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afraid of leaving their home, they’re scared of being targeted and accused of attacking civilians.” The impact is that these beleaguered individuals either fall into a vicious cycle of disenfranchisement, or stage protests and sometimes resort to crime. In 2019, five protesters from activist group, Our Lives Matter, gathered outside government headquarters in Tamar, Admiralty, believing that they were ‘wasting their lives’ as they are in a state of legal limbo. An asylum seeker who wanted to be known only as Mr K, drew a comparison between his situation and awaiting trial, stating that he did not know how long after he would be free. And while instances of refugees committing crimes are elusive, allegations have spread in the community: cases of rape were propagated most prominently in June 2013 where an Indian asylum seeker allegedly raped another guest in Rhine Guesthouse, situated in Chungking Mansions. While these crimes must be dealt with and the perpetrators must be held accountable, it is integral to note that firstly, these are uncorroborated allegations and even if they do commit them, it might be out of disillusionment caused by the convoluted asylum system. When these individuals are so locked out of normal Hong Kong society and when they struggle to survive in the world’s most expensive property market, shackled by other issues such as persistent discrimination and xenophobia, it is not far-fetched to foresee some of these asylum seekers turn to crime. This is by no means a justification for these atrocities, but it is critical to note once again that these cases are nothing more than baseless allegations, propelled by xenophobic media outlets. Therefore, rather than focussing on unfounded accusations, it is far more critical that we concentrate on these individuals’ other parts of life, and try to propose solutions to alleviate their plight. The fact that several aforementioned court rulings have renewed confidence is already a precedent that the government can enact policies for asylum seekers, and it is prime time to demand change. The obvious criticism is the lack of a public database on the Unified Screening Mechanism: as the most direct avenue of being recognized as a refugee, it ought to be more transparent so the public could direct their scrutiny at the horrific waiting times these individuals have to endure. Secondly, the ridiculous regulation that prohibits refugees from working when their applications are screened should be scrapped, and more job opportunities - especially ones that best suit their needs and do not have inflexible language barriers - should be made available. Thirdly, more facilities ought to be provided for these asylum seekers, such as shelter and food to safeguard their fundamental rights. While the above is by no means an exhaustive list of policies, it is meant to spark discussions on how these people could come out of their state of cyclical coercion. Ultimately, if Hong Kong wants to stand up to the inclusive and multilateral title of “Asia World’s City” that it has brandished upon itself, the members of its community - us - must change. We must set aside the xenophobia that the media and certain institutions may want us to be indoctrinated with, and urge for immediate reforms in the system. After all, the fundamental principle of human rights is that they ought to be universal, and it is integral that Hong Kong upholds the rights of refugees as well, especially in an increasingly polarized society.


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Angel Li (DGS) - ‘The Colour of Labour’

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Bernice Chong (DGS)

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Angel Li (DGS)

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“EDUCATIONAL INCLUSIVITY” LEAVES MUCH TO BE DESIRED Charlotte Leung (GSIS) Being a Jewish Chinese student, I’ve heard pretty

No school in Hong Kong would dare schedule a major

much any joke imaginable of how “hard-working and

exam on Easter, and if there was a Christian fasting

studious” I must be. That being said, it still came as

period, you could be sure any sporting events would

a surprise when I was expected to attend school on

be postponed until the end of it. So it should only be

Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year and one of the

natural that the same respect is given towards Jewish,

most important days to my religion) simply to com-

Muslim or any other religiously affiliated holiday. It

plete a maths exam. Or that if I wasn’t present at a

would be assumed that these arrangements would be

Saturday rehearsal, I wouldn’t be able to participate

made, but unfortunately, this is not the case as any de-

in the school play, despite Purim falling on the same

viation from what is considered the norm is punished

day (Purim being a festive Jewish holiday that I had

with indifference.

spent months prior helping to plan). The truth is, despite much progress in increasing social awareness,

Aside from religious differences, schools today tend

not enough schools acknowledge and accommodate

to neglect the existence of learning disabilities. In the

the needs of their students, regardless of whether

past, the possibility of a neurological issue was paid

these needs stem from religion, learning disabilities

little to no attention. Thankfully, more research and

or mental illness.

focus on this area has led to more awareness and now, we are beginning to acknowledge that disabilities af-

Schools in Hong Kong, with a few exceptions, are

fect people of all kinds and ages. Yet the majority of

secular. Officially, there are 144 secondary schools

schooling systems label these learning differences in

that are explicitly Christian, but many international

students as laziness or a lack of effort. Many exam-

schools orient themselves to a Christian society. For

ination boards offer extra time and other exam ac-

example, school rules against seemingly harmless

commodations for students with these exigencies, but

actions such as wearing hats indoors have roots in

not without a thorough report and assessment results

Christian etiquette and tradition. Incorporating re-

which may be difficult and costly to obtain. It is also

ligion into schooling systems isn’t problematic until

suspicious that those in wealthy areas are statistically

students who don’t follow these religious views are

more likely to require extra-time than those in im-

treated differently, or more accurately, not differently.

poverished areas. This also doesn’t change the fact

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that aside from taking medication, there isn’t much

as no surprise that mental disorders such as anxiety

a student with a disorder can do to make the situa-

and depression have become an epidemic in the vast

tion better and it isn’t fair of teachers or the school

majority of schools. Nevertheless, many schools con-

board to expect them to learn or perform in the same

tinue treating mental health issues as if some foreign,

way as a neurotypical student. To simply pat ourselves

abstract concept that doesn’t affect their students

on the back and look with poorly concealed pity by

whatsoever, while others make token efforts with-

giving them extra times or a keyboard for the exact

out addressing the negative stigma that arises within

same tests is hypocrisy and ignorance: recognizing

the school and wider community. The detachment to

that these individuals are challenged yet refusing to

such a relevant problem simply reinforces this culture

allow them to be measured by anything other than the

of ignorance and apathy about the subject.

standards set by the norm. While there are too many complex issues at play for Nowadays, schools that care more about results than

there to be an immediate, universal solution, the first

students’ mental health is far from an overused film

step is for schools to acknowledge, value, and treat

trope. The desire of many parents to send their chil-

children not as statistics on a report, but as individ-

dren to band 1 schools has often resulted in excessive

uals. Individuals whose worth goes beyond what a

pressure on students to go beyond basic success. To

dashboard of grade percentages, unproven personal-

attract students and funding, many schools prioritise

ity tests and list of award certificates can show. Indi-

grades and facilitate unhealthy or destructive behav-

viduals who will shape the future but cannot do so if

iour, such as severe lack of sleep or eating unhealthi-

the things that make them different and special are

ly, all for the sake of retaining the school’s image and

eradicated or punished. Individuals who should have

boosting the grade averages. Trying to achieve this

their dreams and hopes nourished and cherished, not

utopian ideal of “perfection” has become an insatiable

ruthlessly ironed out until nothing but despair and a

addiction marked by an overuse of quantifiable met-

single-tracked mind to become yet another faceless

rics and indifference towards attributes such as mo-

cog in the economic machine is left. A school should

rality, character and personality that make up a good

be a place to encourage the natural human desire to

person. Countless studies and statistics show that stu-

learn and create as opposed to suppressing it with

dents in this day and age are under more pressure than

hostility and apathy.

ever before to manage the impossible, thus it comes

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Timothy Chow (DBS)

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Josh Cheung (IS)

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The Promises and Risks of Technology in Education Ji Yeon Kim (WIS); Artwork by Shraavasti Bhat (KGV)

Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a valuable learning tool, providing new opportunities to broaden the scope of education by introducing more diverse learning environments; it proves essential even during the Covid-19 pandemic, as schools globally take advantage of online classrooms implemented through video conferencing to accommodate distance learning. On the other hand, the potential hazards shadowing technology puts students’ learning, health, and privacy at risk. So where do we draw the line? Of the trending topics in the field of technology, artificial intelligence is one that is drawing overwhelming attention, showing limitless potential in healthcare, transportation, security and banking - for education, this is no different. A common hindrance faced by teachers is the difficulty to adapt their teaching and curriculum so as to satisfy the unique learning styles of each student in a class of thirty. However, artificial intelligence proposes a solution through the implementation of “personalised learning” - after all why should education be limited to a one-size-fits all-approach? Platforms such as the Mika Learning Software, developed by Carnegie Learning, uses AI and cognitive science to analyse academic performance, evaluating how students interact with learning material and how they apply their learning to new situations. These online platforms also give the opportunity for self-paced learning to accommodate the varying abilities of each student - the AI platforms are able to collate up-to-date analysis on students’ current level which will allow for effective, tailored learning, rather than following a strict, linear curriculum. Perhaps in the future this personalised feature may be used to challenge students at the right level even tailoring homework, class assignments and tests to match each student’s ability. Although still in its elementary stages, personalised learning is certainly promising for the future of education - just imagine the possibility of combining AI with facial recognition in driving expression-based learning! Delving deeper into the possibilities presented by artificial intelligence, the development of ‘predictive analysis’ has exciting implications in education due to its ability to make accurate predictions and assumptions based on historical data. Predictive analysis involves the use of various statistical techniques and mathematical models such as decision trees, deep learning, data mining and machine learning algorithms, to compare

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specified variables across datasets and identify generalised patterns which are used to predict future outcomes. One obvious application of predictive analytics is in determining the future progress of students. While many schools rigorously track their students’ grades and attendance levels, machine learning is able to enhance student support by identifying those who show early signs of falling grades or even mental health issues. By analysing how past enrolled students have progressed, predictive analysis programs are able to generalise behavioural patterns and find correlations that we may not have considered and use these to make predictions on how current students will likely perform, providing teachers a valuable tool for quick holistic judgement on their students’ progress. Besides for direct classroom learning, predictive analysis is becoming increasingly popular among colleges and universities in “enrollment analytics”. Machine learning enables these institutes to sift through thousands of applicants to determine which prospective students show greater interest in their school. Finding the needles in the haystack is achieved through tracking interactions on the school’s website, monitoring whether links are clicked on school emails and scanning social media posts. Through this emerging technology, schools are able to describe a candidate through a single data point that contains thousands of variables summarised. This partial automation of the admissions process allows schools to streamline the way they identify strong candidates and anticipate weaker ones, in order to ensure they receive ideal applicants and maximize the retention of students in higher education. Moving away from artificial intelligence, contrary to the view that technology discourages student interactions and engagement in class, technology is in fact actively reinforcing social learning. Breaking the language barrier is one of numerous ways advanced technologies are presenting new opportunities for global learning - applications such as OneNote and Microsoft Teams enable real time language translation between students and educators - opening up the possibility of connecting students around the world and creating a multicultural, multiethnic online learning environment. Another path to social learning has been through the implementation of ‘virtual reality’ (VR) and ‘augmented reality’ (AR) in the classroom, allowing for engagement and complete immersion in a subject. Examples of these new technologies being employed in teaching includes the platform Z-space which uses VR and AR to

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aid medical students in learning how to dissect organs, bones and muscles, all only through the use of a stylus and a pair of 3D glasses; Oculus Rift - a VR platform that can be used for language immersion - enables students from across the globe to connect and practice their language skills while interacting in the virtual world. While technology can expand the scope of our learning environment, our reliance on these tools may have a deteriorating effect on our ability to memorise and think critically. As we are immersed in the technology that makes our lives convenient, we no longer have the need to memorise phone numbers, birthdays and facts. Although our ability to recall such seemingly trivial pieces of information becomes increasingly tenuous, the association our brains form between this information and the internet only strengthens. This is proven by one study, carried out by psychologist Betsy Sparrow from Columbia University, wherein two groups of students were given trivia statements to memorise; One group was told they could later use the internet to check their answers, and the other group was told they could not. Results revealed that the second group performed significantly better at recalling information than the first group who were given the internet as a fallback. The study concluded that people tend to forget information if they had a separate, accessible source to rely on like the internet. Due to the neuroplastic nature of our brains, the more we rely on the internet, the stronger the brain makes the association of the internet as a source of knowledge, so rather than processing the information, we tend to memorise the location the information can be accessed - this is analogous to depending on your phone’s contact list to store phone numbers, but not remembering the digits themselves. This can have harmful implications in learning as the readily available information at our fingertips undermines our ability to think critically and deeply understand material, which is especially significant in exams where content understanding is tested by applying concepts in new situations - without the aid of the internet. Should schools embrace technology and risk this trade off of meaningful learning for greater access to information?

Having computers and phones near while trying to engage in learning can be incredibly distracting - it takes sheer willpower and discipline to not check that notification. Although we may feel that these distractions are minimal and manageable because of our gift of multitasking, in reality productivity is in fact significantly reduced. The illusion of “multitasking” is essentially our brains rapidly switching between tasks - it can’t perform more than one activity simultaneously due to “attentional bottleneck” when tasks are only processed successively. This process of rapid switching is taxing on the brain - it depletes the oxygen and glucose that could have otherwise have been used to fuel cognition completely on the task at hand, therefore severely limiting our productivity by up to 40%. The habits that increase switching, including checking our emails, messages and listening to music, eventually leads to attention disorders. According to a study by the University of California, after being frequently interrupted from procrastination, the brain will gradually develop a short attention span, where it will begin to self-interrupt and lose focus without stimulus. Not only does this imply poor retention of material, lack of engagement and motivation but the ceaseless bombardment of new information could also elevate stress which students are already intoxicated with. Finally, the increasing use of technology will only elevate the issue of digital privacy - a problem education is not exempt from. The more people are exposed to the internet and social media, even if this time is prolonged for educational purposes, they risk exposing too much information online. The digital breadcrumbs trailed behind when students use technology can lead to unintentional leaks of personal information that can be misused or in extreme cases could even jeopardise their prospects at gaining admission to university. In addition to student incaution, there also lies risks in the storage of student data. Technology integrating into classrooms means using educational platforms such as personalised learning platforms, interactive textbooks and online discussion platforms. Such online educational services with access to students’ personal information can easily harvest this sensitive data including names, email addresses, passwords and possibly qualitative data such as behavioral information (mainly derived from personalised learning platforms such as when students usually do homework, for how long etc) that could be used for marketing and analysis, sold or shared inappropriately. According to Future of Privacy Forum, given only a name, email address and zip code, there is an 87% chance a person’s identity can be determined. Although there are many grey areas in the usage of technology, its benefits are too paramount to be completely cast aside. Rather than implementing a ‘digital detox’ and rejecting current progress and a promising future, new technologies should be embraced, but with caution and awareness of the potential dangers. Acknowledgment is a start to taking steps to minimise hazards and ensuring a safe expanded online environment for education to prosper. 62

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THE QUESTION OF VAPING AND E-CIGARETTE USAGE Karma Samtani (CDNIS) ; Artwork by Chloe Cheung (ISFA) E-cigarette usage is an issue that continues to grow in magnitude and severity, especially amongst communities of the youth. Given the relatively new nature of e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, consequences and side effects of said usage are still somewhat unknown. However, given recent events, such as the deaths of teenagers as a result of vape usage, many countries, such as the USA and India, are beginning to crack down on e-cigarette and vape usage. Although the sale of e-cigarettes first began China in 2004, this trend has now spread to the rest of the world, and has grown to become the most popular form of tobacco usage amongst teenagers in the United States (Medical News Today).

The introduction of “flavored juices” that would make e-cigarette vapor taste like certain foods or drinks by companies such as JUUL have further drawn in underage users, leading to unexpected and unwanted health consequences. Furthermore, the new nature of a product like e-cigarettes has led to a flood in the supply market. As youths usually cannot go to established outlets to purchase e-cigarettes, for fear of being reprimanded, they resort to the purchase of badly manufactured and low-quality e-cigarettes and vapes. These low-quality products are often sold on the black market and contain harmful chemicals or defective batteries and other aspects that could pose serious risks to potential users. Moreover, given the widespread popularity of e-cigarettes, it has been difficult for agencies to properly regulate the manufacturing of said products in a timely manner. Addiction to vaping amongst youth has become an increasingly prevalent issue. In communities such as Hong Kong, this issue is beginning to spiral out of control due to the sourcing of these vapes on the black market. Even if reliable sources take steps to prevent youth addiction, the sale of vapes and e-cigarettes on the black market to youth will likely persist. This issue is a global one, which will continue to grow in magnitude if it is not addressed correctly and promptly. The countries that are currently the most affected by this issue are mostly industrialized and developed nations such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Sourcing countries of vapes, such as China are also dealing with this public health epidemic. This is primarily due to easy access to and cheap prices of vapes and e-cigarettes, thus making them easier for youth to obtain.

GENERAL OVERVIEW The increase in deaths and health issues that have arisen as a result of vape popularity amongst youth have forced countries to take this issue more seriously. That said, these exact reasons for health complications from vaping are still unconfirmed. There have been numerous scientific theories regarding what has caused the large amounts of vaping-related health complications.

These health complications have become increasingly common, especially in the United States, with 38 states having reported cases of vaping-related lung illnesses as of September 2019 (Wisconsin Dept of Public Health). Moreover, there has been a rise in frequency of said vaping-related lung disease cases, with 530 individual cases having been reported in only 1 week between September 19th and 26th.

REASONS FOR RELATIVE INACTION ON THIS ISSUE There are certain issues that have exacerbated the severity of this problem. One main issue is the lack of adequate regulations on e-cigarettes. Unlike other addictive recreational substances such as alcohol and tobacco, the e-cigarette market grew rapidly, not allowing for countries to take proactive actions to regulate corporations making said products, as well as setting industry guidelines. Moreover, the sale of e-cigarettes has become unexpectedly popular amongst youth, and, due to the lack of foreseeability of this problem, many nations did not take proactive steps to mitigate the access of youth to these devices. These factors are likely to have contributed to the exponential rise in popularity of vapes, both in general as well as especially among youth.

Thus, the majority of steps taken to address this issue have been reactive instead of proactive, thus preventing any immediate change from taking place. Despite the well-intentioned nature of many proposals, they fail to address the large quantity of existing vape pens already in the hands of underaged users who may fall prey to nicotine addiction as well as the symptoms that arise with it. The lack of urgency with which this issue has been handled has greatly contributed to its rise in seriousness. Thus, proposals to address this issue should be both proactive and reactive, and should consider both short-term and long term impacts.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO THE RISE IN POPULARITY OF VAPING AMONGST YOUTH The main contributing factor to the rise in popularity of vapes among youth can be attributed to two main reasons, with the first being easy access. Easy access to vape pens will immediately lead to increased rates of youth usage. This ease of access allows youth to purchase vape pens and use them very easily, and the access to said products opens a door to underlying health complications that could otherwise be avoided. This widespread access also increases the likelihood of youth being able to find a supplier that disregards their age. A way to address this issue is to put into place more stringent vetting processes for businesses, and employees of said businesses looking to sell vape pens. The second contributing factor is the marketing of these products. With the introduction of new fruity and candy-mimicking flavors, youth are increasingly attracted to these products due to their fun and exciting image. The marketing of these products

as small, and as a result, easy to hide, further encourages underage individuals to purchase these goods, as they feel that they will not face consequences if they purchase e-cigarettes and vapes. Moreover, the introduction of vape “juice” flavors that are especially popular with youth, such as cotton candy, attract and encourage youth to try these dangerous products. There have been numerous different approaches by different countries as to how best to address the issue of e-cigarettes and vapes. Many feel that a complete ban is necessary, while others prefer to have increased restrictions and regulations to prevent youth from being able to access these devices. Approaches include the introduction of a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, a tax on e-cigarettes and vapes, stricter age requirements, and a more stringent set of manufacturing and distribution standards.



Vapes were first invented in China, and the majority of vape manufacturing occurs there. For a long time, Chinese e-cigarette manufacturers have gone unregulated. However, China has recently cracked down on the purchase of e-cigarettes by banning the online sale of such products.

The government of the United Kingdom has embraced vaping as an approach to allow people to transition from smoking arguably more harmful tobacco cigarettes. This has actually proven to be effective, as the percentage and quantity of vaping-related deaths in the United Kingdom is much lower than that of the United States.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA The United States has arguably been the hardest hit by this crisis, with the majority of deaths attributed to vaping occuring in the United States. President Donald Trump recently imposed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, although he is now reconsidering this policy. The United States has also imposed upon vape companies a much stricter application program, meaning that e-cigarette and vape companies have to go through a more stringent vetting process before getting their products approved to be sold to the general public.

THAILAND Thailand arguably has the most strict anti-vaping laws in the world, where users can face up to 10 years in prison if they are found to have possession of an e-cigarette. The government of Thailand has cited the addictive nature of e-cigarettes for youth as the reason for these strict laws.

KEY CLASHES The main clashes in this debate come to two main points of contention–the first being whether or not the issue of vaping should be taken more seriously, and the second being what types of methods should be used in addressing this public health issue.

WHICH IS A MORE PRESSING PROBLEM – TOBACCO OR VAPING? There are many experts who believe that vaping is not as serious of an issue as the problem of actual tobacco consumption, and that it is becoming a distraction from the ongoing tobacco issues that continue to impact society today. These experts argue that vaping has some positive impacts, and that it is a method to decrease one’s reliance on tobacco over time, similar to other methods such as nicotine chewing gum.

However, others argue that this issue is more serious than that of tobacco due to the large amounts of youth using these products and the relatively unknown nature of these products. The health risks of tobacco are widely known, but those of vapes and e-cigarettes are relatively unknown due to the new nature of this technology, and the resulting lack of time to properly conduct scientific research regarding this topic.

FRAMEWORK TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES The second main clash in regards to this topic is regarding the way to address this ongoing public health crisis. Given the increasingly high stakes of this situation, many countries have opted for an allout ban on e-cigarettes and vapes. However, critics of this approach argue that it penalizes well-intentioned users who may be relying on vapes as a way to transition away from smoking.

This argument also cites the misuse of these products mainly by youth, and not adults, and thus the unfair nature of imposing such a law. These parties have therefore argued against such a proposal, and instead have chosen to advocate for solutions such as a tax on vape products, as well as increased regulations on age requirements to purchase vapes.

PAST UN INVOLVEMENT The World Health Organization has previously urged countries not to underestimate the severity of this issue. They have also denied to recognize e-cigarettes and vapes as a viable gateway out of tobacco addiction, and instead prefer to recommend more conventional treatments such as tobacco-flavored chewing gum in order to achieve this goal. The United Nations has called for increased regulation of e-cigarettes and vapes, through the

forms of bans on vape advertisements as well as increased measures to ensure that products are not sold to minors. They have also argued that the continuous promotion of e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking may undermine the severity of consequences that may arise as a result of usage. They have cited the safety of pregnant mothers and underage users as a key concern when advocating for increased regulations on vaping.

ADDRESSING THE POTENTIAL WEAPONIZATION OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND BIG DATA Belle Ho (STC); Artwork by Erin Fung (CDNIS) From exploring the depths of deep-sea volcanoes to defeating the most celebrated Go player in a series of matches, artificial intelligence (AI) heralds a new age of technology for humanity and is thus being developed at a rapid pace by nations worldwide. While scientists anticipate further progress in the field of AI, it could yield devastating consequences for warfare. As already evidenced by, for example, China’s social credit system, new forms of technology can easily taken advantage of to encroach upon the rights of millions. Although modern-day machine learning capabilities are nowhere near those of robots in dystopian movies, such as The Terminator, its future potential leads this committee to address the following agenda: addressing the potential for weaponization of artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data. Artificial intelligence (AI) unravels a new age of technology for humanity and is being developed at a rapid pace by nations worldwide. While scientists anticipate further progress in the field of AI, it could yield devastating consequences for warfare. As already evidenced by, for example, China’s social credit system, new forms of technology can be easily taken advantage of to encroach upon the rights of millions. Although modern-day machine learning capabilities are nowhere near those of robots in our imagined worlds, its future potential leads this committee to address the following agenda: addressing the potential for weaponization of artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data.

GENERAL OVERVIEW Weaponization of Artificial intelligence and Big Data can be exemplified in multiple dimensions; the most prominent example of AI weaponization is drone technology, spearheaded by US’ Obama administration. Using facial recognition technology, these drones survey a programmed site and sometimes autonomously target a person or group of individuals. As ostensible, this raises several concerns regarding civilian safety.

DEVELOPMENT OF DRONES To avoid risking American soldiers’ lives, the US military has developed and deployed unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, in areas like Iraq and Yemen. Using facial recognition technology, these drones survey a programmed site and sometimes autonomously target a person or group of individuals. As apparent, this raises several concerns regarding civilian safety. With 329 confirmed strikes on Yemen, 1,020 to 1,384 were killed, 44 to 50 of which were children. Such data is a testament to the occasional inaccuracy of modern drone technology, even that of the US, which is a leader in AI weaponry. Although AI is intended to make split-second military decisions that some humans cannot make in time, it is the cause of numerous unnecessary deaths. While these unintentional casualties can be attributed to the plain inaccuracy of modern-day AI, which will likely be improved with time, there are also limitations with programming in and of itself. Human ethics are not one-dimensional, but the nature of binary code forces AI to make spontaneous decisions with a finite algorithm. Given that most targeted attacks are situational, the weaponization of AI makes some civilian deaths inevitable; drones do not possess the same awareness of emotion that we humans do.

DRONE ATTACKS In the vast majority of instances, targeted attacks are situational; the weaponization of AI makes some civilian deaths inevitable as drones do not possess the same awareness of emotion that we humans do. With these inherent limitations, AI weaponization could result in many more unintended consequences. Militaries with AI capabilities could often be more incentivized to send drones across the world, given that no humans are being placed in harm’s way. AI weapons will likely cost less in the long run and could be more accurate than their human counterparts. Given that, cross-border military operations may become increasingly more frequent potentially raising the likelihood of violent confrontation.

AI WEAPONS Like other global issues that were brought to the table, some steps are being taken to limit the proliferation of AI weapons, which can likely change the nature of warfare and civilian safety for centuries to come. In 2015 any renowned experts like stephan hawking, signed a letter urging the ban of autonomous AI weapons. While some acknowledges the potential benefits of AI aircrafts yet criticizing the global misuse of UAVs for lethal purposes. Due to the nature of this issue, there is admittedly not much history or background information surrounding AI weapons. Nevertheless, it could make history in future years — for better or worse.

WEAPONIZATION OF BIG DATA Another dimension of this agenda of a similar nature is the weaponization of Big Data. In this issue, weaponization conventionally refers to privacy encroachments upon the average citizen’s rights. The complication of Big Data concerns roots from several causes: inadequate legislation, the lack of substitutes for most tech companies’ services, and the power imbalance between users and the given company. A number of companies have been in the limelight for privacy violations in the past. Big tech companies like facebook, twitter and google are often criticised for misuse of data. Facebook’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2016 forced Zuckerburg to present himself in court and testify about the incident and others. More recently, Google was fined almost three million dollars in March 2019 for abusing its dominant monopolistic market power and preventing users from engaging with rival search engines. European Union with its General Data Protection Regulation, have been successful in enforcing data laws and is the reason tech companies have faced severe financial consequences as a result of their abuse of power. Unfortunately, the global community has done little to prevent the misuse of Big Data beyond updating laws. Very few identifiable UN resolutions have been passed on the topic that produced any tangible effects on tech companies. However, we know that weaponization of big data is real and coming, it will be a matter of time until this issue becomes even more strenuous to tackle.



The EU established the General Data Protection Regulation, which has been the basis for recent lawsuits against Google and Facebook. It requires that data-collecting companies anonymize information extracted and regularly update its user privacy policy. Nations or companies around the world that do not abide by this are often penalized by a sizable fine.

The UK’s drone program is also making considerable progress. The UK is developing the capability to replace humans in the airforce with an array of robots that can attack targets with great efficiency. Researchers at Thales, a French defense company that supplies reconnaissance drones to the UK, warns that terrorists located in the nation could be developing similar technology.



FAANG stands for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, the five largest stocks in the international stock market in the 21st century. Together, these five brands are oligopolies in data collection and extraction. Effective regulations targeting even just these five companies could prove successful in curbing many of today’s privacy-related issues.

Israel is involved in numerous trade relations with many countries like the US. In recent years, it has developed and sold technology that targets and destroys anti-air defenses. It is a country that is heavily involved in the progression of AI technology and has not been averse to the use of AI in warfare.

ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS (ASEAN) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) The US is often the center of Big Data storage contentions and possesses the world’s leading drone program. Given the eminence through the ownership of major tech companies, the US controls and is the home of the databases that collect information about billions of users around the world. With regards to its drone program, it has led to a stark decrease in troops on the battlefield—90% from 2009 to 2017.

Some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand for example, have been in staunch opposition against the weaponization of AI. The Philippines expressed, “Asia has been a testing ground for new and advanced weapons throughout the wars of its recent past...” Thailand, as well as the many Southeast Asian countries in agreement, is thus protesting the development of AI weapons.



ing or caution, leading to international incidents that could blow out of proportion. A report published by the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) also finds that drones could be the perfect vehicle for biological or chemical weaponry. With the risk of global instability at hand, the solutions that delegates should consider and expand upon are twofold: legislation/treaties and transparency.

One of the largest problems inherent with AI is the increasing potential for conflict. Given that Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are not manned, this bolsters the likelihood of deployment, creating a destabilizing effect on regions that high-tech countries target. Additionally, countries could easily mistake a manned aircraft for a surveillance drone and shoot it down without forewarn-

Moreover, Concerns surrounding the ethics of the autonomous weapons have also been particularly striking problem, particularly, programs that are able to shoot depending on situations. While AI programs claim that they are often far more accurate, critics are concerned about their ability to discriminate and whether their targets are truly “situational.”

As made evident by the title of the agenda, the appropriate course of action should be twofold: addressing the malicious use of AI and Big Data.

As of today, there are few to no laws or treaties that address the rise of drone usage for military purposes. Given the lack of incentive for individual countries to weaken one’s own military and conversely empower others, the most effective method of solving the development of AI LAWs is by means of international governing bodies like the UN. One important aspect of drones that should be tackled is how autonomous they are. Once programmed in a specific manner by an expert, autonomous drones make their own decisions and thus making it extremely difficult for militaries to shut them off. At the occasional risk of civilians, LAWs could grow extremely outcome-oriented. Countries should come to an agreement about during what situations autonomous LAWs can be authorized, or whether they should be permitted at all. Additionally, similar conventions should be held to decide how international law will treat the programmers of AI LAWs—in other words, addressing who will take responsibility for drones committing war crimes.

TRANSPARENCY With regard to transparency, drones are often deployed and developed behind the scenes of other military endeavors. Third-party audits should be able to readily investigate any country’s drone program, so as to ensure no country is intrusive or taking advantage of loopholes found in international agreements. Reports should be co-written by national governments and outside experts on the status of unmanned military technologies that are being developed by militaries. Although this could be considered detrimental to the autonomy of each country around the world, it is a step delegates may agree is essential to ensure the peace of the global community.

BIG DATA AND PRIVACY Concerns related to Big Data raise the question of whether any one entity should have disproportionate access to an individual’s privacy. Although it is often said that young people do not care about their privacy to the same extent as young adults, studies published by the University of California, Berkeley, and PricewaterhouseCoopers indicate that regardless of age, everyone wants to know what is being done with their data. As early as 2013, a bug was discovered that Facebook had been aware of, one that exposed vast amounts of user information, including people’s phone numbers and email addresses. And in recent years, privacy violations have not been limited to Facebook taking advantage of its vast databases of user information; when hackers or individuals with malicious intentions are able to get their hands on Big Data, a user’s reasonable expectation of privacy, as stated in the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, grows entirely meaningless. A number of steps can be taken to address the potential leakage of one’s private information. Delegates ought to tackle this aspect of the agenda from two lenses: transparency and power imbalance.

PAST UN INVOLVEMENT With regards to LAWs, UN organised branches and target committees have been working to deal with the potential hazards of unregulated weapons. For example, CCW, also referred as the Inhumane Weapons Convention aims to prohibit and restrict the use of excessively injurious or indiscriminate effect during combat. Originally only having three protocols, the fourth protocol concerning the use of blinding laser weapons is an example that delegates should look at. The fourth protocols successfully prohibited the use of laser weapons even before it was completely developed and weaponized due to the collective effort by all States. The purpose of the Convention is to ban or restrict the use of specific types of weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately.

In 2015, there has been a Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. As a coalition of non-governmental organizations that are working together to ban the use of fully autonomous weapons, it was supported by many NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, International Committee for Robot Arms Control, PAX, etc. The coalition sought to achieve a comprehensive ban treaty both globally and locally that bans all stages of development, production, and the use of LAWS. A total of 87 countries participated in the four-day meeting of experts on “lethal autonomous weapons systems” by the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, which concluded on the afternoon of Friday, May 16, 2015 (71 states parties and signatories to the convention and 12 observer states). Representatives were also present from UN agencies including UNIDIR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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Timothy Chow (DBS)

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Rishima Mathur (DC)

bold and brilliant.

Audrey Yuen (HISHK)


Have you heard of Joan of Arc? Known as “the Maid of Orléans”, Joan of Arc was a prominent leader whose military genius led the French to victory over the English during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War. A woman who took tremendous risks to save her country, Joan transcended society’s gender restrictions and defied society’s expectations. Her exemplary character undoubtedly epitomizes the phrase “bold and brilliant”, and she has been immortalized in legends centuries past her lifetime. But what does being bold and brilliant really mean? It is the willingness to take risks after meticulous planning and thought; it is having the courage to try unconventional things without the restraints of mainstream thinking or convention; it is having the confidence to reject the peer pressure and expectations of others.

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How many people can call themselves such? How many people would even want to? Xenophobia, the fear of the unknown, serves as shackles for complacency within our lives. Although taking risks propels you forward and empowers personal growth, most choose to stay within our comfort zones - not because we lack the ability, but because we lack the will and succumb to fear of failure. We believe that if we don’t take any risks, we’ll be on the safe, obstacle-free path to success. We deceive ourselves into assuming that if we do take risks, we’ll fail and carelessly jeopardize our futures. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, “the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks”. Risk-taking will lead you to success, but only if you learn to evaluate which risks

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are the correct ones to take. Brilliant risk-takers make informed decisions by first assessing the possible outcomes and consequences. Through an understanding of the odds, they maximize their chances of success by mitigating the probability and magnitude of failure. Being bold doesn’t mean one recklessly charges into the abyss without a second thought, rather it is the willingness to take risk based on informed consideration, rational analysis and calculated action. This mindset enables them to be versatile and adaptable to new opportunities, instead of being locked down on a singular path, allowing them to maximize the utility of opportunities in ways that most could only dream of. Finally, risk-taking involves sacrifice; brilliant risk-takers make a judgment of what they value most and what they are willing to give up. When taking risks, there is always the chance of failure: it is a statistical inevitability that eventually something will go wrong. If one believes in Murphy’s law, then it is actually probable. Thus to have a hope of long term success with risk taking, one must first realize that being brave and being bold are not contradictory, but rather two pillars to success. What has always frustrated me is the lack of flexibility in the education system. Most students are trained to fear failure: to receive a bad grade on a test, a reprimand from their peers or even take unorthodox risks such as founding a start up, all of these are often derided. To encourage risk taking, there must be a change in the way that our youth, and our future generations, think and act. Most students and youth are shielded from the full consequences of society: you have a safety net in your parents and your teachers’ support. To have invested your piggy bank into a personal business venture and failure may be depressing, but you will likely still have a roof on your head and a warm meal on the table. It is so ironic that many only begin exploring taking large risks when we lose this safety net and ascend into the chaotic world of adulthood and wider society. If you are a student, an excellent way to take risks within an academic context is to try out a new activity. You could try out a new instrument, join a sports club, join a new academic competition - the options are endless. Here’s an example: if you’re shy and wish to become a more confident speaker, you could take a risk by stepping out of your comfort zone and participating in a Model United Nations conference, an educational simulation in which students learn about diplomacy and international relations. If one succeeded here, they would have overcome a weakness. If they failed, they would have lost a bit of time, perhaps face a bit of teasing from their peers. Yet these consequences are tame, even laughable, when one considers that messing up a business pitch, a performance, or god forbid at a public event, would cause the entire weight of news outlets, gossip columns and wider society to of of employto mock mockyou, you,perhaps perhapscausing causingloss loss employ-


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ment, loss of respect and in some cases loss of rights. Taking risks is imperative at a young age, for the costs multiply exponentially as one grows up, and if we coddle ourselves into avoiding risks, we will be forced to confront reality in adulthood, where there is little sympathy, laughable mercy and no safety net. Who knows? A risk could pay out in ways unimaginable. When I was in Year 9, I jumped through the door and participated in the inaugural Hong Kong Linguistics Olympiad. Though I had no linguistic knowledge of any sort, I decided to give the competition a go and learn, for I was determined to learn, and there are scant few other opportunities, with linguistics rarely taught at secondary schools. I remember my sheer elation and thrill, the adrenaline and dopamine coursing through my blood when I solved my first puzzle. I had triumphed; I had found the right path out of a mind-boggling, perplexing labyrinth. In the end, I won the Olympiad. Consequently, I won the opportunity to represent Hong Kong at the 17th International Linguistics Olympiad. There I embarked on an enlightening voyage, deciphering languages both cryptic and culturally diverse - Yonggom, Yurok, Middle Persian, West Tarangan and Nooni. Undoubtedly, had I not made the decision to take the initial risk, I would never have discovered my passion for linguistics, never had the chance to meet others who shared my passion and challenge myself. I am not saying that all risks should be taken. Risk-takers often face setbacks, or even outright failure. However, with new insight, knowledge, and experience, they bounce back twice as hard and embrace lessons learnt, becoming a better person for it . As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Do you think Edison managed to succeed by following a conventional or regular path and playing it safe? No! Heed my words - don’t be afraid to pursue unorthodox paths to achieve your goals. You never know - the 10,001st way could work. If taking a risk is akin to conquering a mountain, then climb when you’ve prepared with a map, packed climbing gear and trained your body. Come with the mindset that although you may trip or meet unexpected obstacles, that thanks to your preparation, you will get right back up and overcome anything that’s blocking your way. After encountering dead ends, instead of simply giving up, dare to explore alternative roads that have never been taken before. Most importantly, have the courage to take the first step of the climb, for even if you trip, you shall stand above the legions who are too afraid to even try. And once you reach the summit, you will have boundless seas of opportunity at your feet. Be bold. Be brilliant. Audaces Fortuna Juvat.


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Raphaele Guillemot (VSA)

a life I’ve come to miss

Katie Warren (CDNIS)


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I’ve come to miss the sunlight, pouring down above Like a beacon of life, clear skies and sweet sighs of relief Free of the smoke and seas of grey you’d come to say Had become ordinary in this day and age Extraordinarily scary as life without grey and green and machines which ‘clean’ It seemed like only a dream, not the reality in which we live in I’ve come to miss running down the fields Playing hide and seek beneath the sea above my head When friends became screens of text in between Telling me I could no longer leave the confines of my home A desolate biome; the ghost of a city I used to know And I know I’m not alone in thinking so, reflected 7 million fold I’ve come to miss the colors of the Earth that I’d see A serenity to be revered, an imitation of art itself As spirits wander the streets, leaving trails behind them Life seems to thin, within you and within me Within everyone and everything, I only see the withering It’s slow and painful; I don’t want that to be the case I’ve come to miss the feeling of being able to breathe My lifespan has been tied to yet another machine, pressing clean air Into my body, like a balloon swelling and swelling until My lungs burst and wilt like the trees outside my window I no longer leave my room, bed-ridden and sickly People mourn for my leave; 18 days, they said, I’d finally be relieved I’ve come to miss the life I’d known as a kid Free and full of bliss, rid of the anxiety I now live with That we’d push past the tipping point, voices hoarse Screaming for a force to come down and release us Grieving for what’s been lost, chests heaving exhaust And what does it cost us to turn a blind eye to the problem? Nothing, no, nothing at all except the time we have left to solve it The world is ending, or perhaps a fragment of it Shrouded in mystery, lamented by many “Who could have done this? Who is to blame?” They call the names, old and the same Passing guilt and fear over and over again Watching lights burn out, becoming hazes of grey Will I live to see the day everything is okay? And so before I depart, let us try and restart With connection comes change and with change Comes a new hope that I wish to impart Hand in hand, we carve ourselves a path To a day where we can Breathe freely See clearly Sigh with relief and it goes without saying Each and every step counts towards something Big or small, better than nothing at all So look up with hope to the sliver of skylight We will get through the plight, the night, with the future within sight

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INSECURITY INSECURITY INSECURITY INSECURITY INSECURITY INSECURITY INSECURITY Maddie Jaeger (Kellett School) I think it’s safe to say that we all feel insecure sometimes; whether it be about our appearances, academics or something else contrived, we don’t always feel emotionally secure. Within this article, we will be looking at some of the upsides and downsides of being insecure, what it does to your mind, and some potential ways to minimise it. When you feel insecure, your self esteem drops rapidly. Sometimes, you might feel uncomfortable in your own body. Other times, you blame yourself for not doing better, or you blame yourself for something negative that happened. Sometimes being insecure can make you anxious that everyone secretly talks about you behind your back, or that you’ll never be successful. All of these judgements stem from innate inferiority we feel as children. According to Alfred Adler, a famous psychologist, we spend the rest of our lives after childhood trying to compensate for the inferiority we felt. As people replace the dependency of childhood with the independence of adulthood, the feelings of inferiority manifests with different intensities for different people. Insecurity threatens the ego. The more it threatens it, the more likely our brain is to connect events and feelings with vulnerability. It becomes an exponential spiral; an inescapable pitfall wherein the more often you feel insecure, the more easily you feel insecure about lesser threats. With pressures to perform well in school growing through the years, and expectations rising with every generation, insecurity is becoming more and more of a problem. As teenagers, we are starting to become more aware of the talents and abilities of the people around us. We naturally compare

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ourselves to others and try to find our place in mental ‘ranks’. Teenagers search for a place where they belong and develop their own identity. This happens to be the time that insecurity generally spikes.

insecurity is something we have to overcome and conquer ourselves. Self-confidence is the only long-term solution to the deep dark calls of ‘the emotional void’. So how can we improve our own self confidence?

“Turns out a total lack of insecurity is actually a sign of things gone wrong,” says journalist Ellen Hendriksen. Social anxiety, often associated with abnormally strong feelings of insecurity as a side effect, is currently theorised to lie on the exact opposite side of the spectrum from psychopathy - a mental illness associated with anti-social and even violent behaviour. A study by Niels Birbaumer and his team at the University of Tubingen put individuals with social anxiety through MRI scanners, as well as criminal psychopaths. They found that those with social anxiety have an overactive frontolimbic circuit, and psychopaths have an underactive frontolimbic circuit. This circuit is responsible for emotional processing of events and analysing threats. Good news is, if you feel insecure, you’re probably not a psychopath.

Think about the expectations you set for yourself. If you don’t meet them, what is the worst case scenario? Try to identify if you fit any of the following thinking traps as described by Anxiety Canada:

From a biological perspective, there are uses of this insecurity to make sure we don’t accidentally miss a danger or social mishap that can cost us our ‘tribe’. Elephant Journal in The Science of Insecurity writes: “It’s better to ring a false alarm when there is no threat than to miss a real threat. False alarms are annoying, but it’s much better than the house burning down around us.” A little bit of vulnerability might be good for us, every once in a while. It allows people to strive for excellence. Oftentimes, the perfectionist suffers from heavy insecurity for these reasons. An intrinsic push is sometimes more effective than extrinsic ones. One study found that successful CEOs have a much higher likelihood of being insecure - as this worry of danger has helped to keep their companies extra secure and risk-adverse in the hard times. Overall, insecurity in moderation demonstrates empathy and the ability to assess risks. It helps us to put in the extra effort to help achieve our goals and sometimes leads to better results. But it is also exhausting. The constant uphill battle towards a goal that seems unattainable requires stamina and perseverance. Along the way, our mental health, relationships and self-perception all suffer enormously. Sometimes when we’re feeling down, the thing we want the most is for someone to validate us. Our peers telling us ‘you’re wrong’ when we make irrational conclusions about our own self worth can mean so much. However,

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All or Nothing Thinking Thinking only of possible outcomes at either extreme (really good or really bad) and not seeing all the possible outcomes in-between (or the “grey”). Most of life is somewhere in the middle. Catastrophizing Imagining the worst-case scenario, no matter how unlikely in reality. Overestimating Exaggerating the likelihood that something bad will happen. Fortune Telling Believing you can predict the future. But you can’t because you don’t have a crystal ball. E.g “No one is going to talk to me at the party.” Overgeneralizing Making sweeping judgments about ourselves (or others) based on only one or two experiences. These thoughts typically contain the words “always” and “never.” The problem: you can never be summed up in one word or base your value as a person on only one single experience! Mind Reading Believing you know what others are thinking (and assuming it’s negative), without any real evidence. The problem: you can’t read minds, so stop trying. Negative Brain Filter Focusing only on the negative without seeing any of the positive or what is going well. You can train yourself out of these thinking traps. With negative thoughts oncoming, make sure you think through it to see if it matches any of them. Try to rationalise the alarm bells going on in your brain, and you might see an improvement. However, it is easier said than done. The only person that can help you with your confidence and emotional processing is yourself. The payoffs are definitely worth it though!


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1st Ed.

9/6/2020 2:05:20 PM

Gordon Wu (STC)

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04-Aug-20 12:58:30 PM


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