Senior occupational therapy major Stefanie Cheung moved to the United States from Hong Kong when she was a sophomore in high school. She was tired of being asked if her home of Hong Kong was a country. Her answer was always, “it’s complicated.”
“People are very interested in this topic, so I thought, let’s do a Cultural Connections about it…it is a very complicated topic, and I thought it would be very interesting for the UNH student body,” Cheung said.
Cheung’s lecture, “Is Hong Kong a Country?” was presented as part of the Cultural Connections lecture series on Friday, March 3, at 3:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) entertainment center. The room was filled with interested spectators who wondered about Hong Kong’s status in the world.
Cheung explained that Hong Kong is not, in fact, a country. Its full name is “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of People’s Republic of China,” and it is an autonomous region of China. This means that it is a dependent territory of China, but has a certain degree of autonomy or self-governance.
Cheung explained that the current complicated status of Hong Kong is due to the Treaty of Nanjing, which gave the territory to Britain following the Opium Wars, but only until 1997. After 1997, Hong Kong became a special administrative region of China, and lives under a “one country, two systems” policy, meaning that, though Hong Kong technically belongs to China, it is heavily influenced by the British. The judicial and legislative branches of government follow “Hong Kong Basic Law,” which is very similar to “British Common Law.” Education in Hong Kong is different from the rest of China and draws heavily from the British education curriculum.
“One country, two systems” also means that Hong Kong citizens have separate passports, which complicates travel. If a Hong Kong Citizen is born before 1997 they have a British passport (BNO), and if they were born after 1997 they have a Hong Kong passport (SAR). However, BNO passport holders are not British citizens. In addition, Hong Kong citizens need a special visa to travel to mainland China.
The policy is only in place for 50 years; it will end in 2047. However, there is no discussion between Hong Kong and China and the political climate is changing every day.
Following Cheung’s lecture, the audience was able to ask questions to the speaker. One audience member, sophomore social work major Faye DiBella, was interested in the lecture after attending the 16th annual MLK summit last weekend.
“I’ve been trying to learn a lot about different cultures…I didn’t know anything about the ‘two systems, one country’ so it was interesting to see how a major Chinese city system works, especially from someone who is from there,” DiBella said.
The next Cultural Connections lecture will be on March 24, where students are invited to learn about the Nepalese language.