Lesson 8: Dance in a Rainstorm

This weekend Zhicheng held its 5th Annual Public Interest Forum at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL). The forum is an opportunity for Zhicheng interns to formally present their research to CUPL professors as well as Zhicheng lawyers and staff. As stated previously, I joined the Criminal Law group for this project. For our presentation, we researched the role of public defenders during the investigation stage of the criminal process. Our research consisted of two parts: (1) a comparative analysis between China, India, and the U.S. and (2) suggestions for our home countries to improve protection for indigent defendants. In preparation for the forum, each group wrote a short paper and created a PowerPoint presentation. Unfortunately, due to visa issues I had to stay in Hong Kong during the forum. However, I created the paper and PowerPoint for the United States portion of our presentation while my partner, a Chinese student at Peking University (北大), presented on our behalf.

When I applied for my travel documents to Beijing, I was given a ten-year visa that limits my stay in China to only 60 days at a time. Due to this, I had to take an impromptu trip to Hong Kong (which qualifies as leaving China) to restart my visa.

We arrived at the airport thirty minutes before boarding and ran to the check-in counter only to find the staff standing idly about. Although our flight was scheduled for 8:05, we did not set off for Hong Kong until 11:00PM. (This seems to be a trend regarding outbound flights in China. Read here.) Our first day in Hong Kong was spent in the much smaller city of Macau. Macau is an area of China previously colonized by Portugal and to this day maintains its Portuguese influence. While in Macau we ate egg tarts, viewed the St. Paul Ruins, and walked the beautiful streets. During our second day in Hong Kong, we met with my co-counsel at a local restaurant. My co-counsel gave Lauren and I a lot of great advice and explained some challenges of working in the private sector. After lunch with my co-counsel, we did some shopping and ended the night with an evening trip to Victoria’s Peak.

Unfortunately, our entire trip in Hong Kong was met with rain storms. Even as we rode the trolley up Victoria’s Peak, we were met with a down pour that kept us indoors and blocked our view of the city. However, there was one distinct moment when we decided to run outside to catch a final glimpse of the city below. We figured we were only in Hong Kong for two days so why not? A Chinese family looked on as we put on our raincoats and prepared to run in the storm. However, once we got outside not only was the view amazing but the experience was so refreshing. It’s funny how we protect ourselves from getting wet, but once you’re soaked you don’t care anymore. It was kind of relieving.

I’m not sure why but while running in the rain, I thought about all the political issues that were happening in Hong Kong. We arrived a day or two after Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, passed away from cancer. It was also a week after Xi Jin Ping made his first visit to Hong Kong as General Secretary. In truth, the rain in Hong Kong was timely as it seemed there was a political damper on the city. However, despite the political storm, Hong Kongers decided to dance in the rain. A vigil was held to celebrate the life and efforts of Liu Xiaobo. Legislators, who were forced out of office, held protests regarding their freedoms. Additionally, compared to Beijing where there were massive efforts to find and block VPNs, in Hong Kong we were finally able to access sites like the NY Times and Google, freely. Seeing the efforts of the Hong Kong people to push back against political controls was refreshing. Particularly since working for NGOs in China can become frustrating at times due to slow internet speeds, lack of access, limited access to foreigners, due to “sensitive” information, and other political issues. Hong Kong was a great break to not only experience a new space in Asia, but also remind me that there is a bigger picture to my work this summer.

High of the Week: Made to Hong Kong! Finished my research for the forum!

Delta of the Week: Try not to get bogged down by everyday frustrations, but look at the bigger picture and understand my work matters.