Spotlight on Seminars: Hong Kong Journalism Fellows Explore Post-Olympics China

Hong Kong Journalism Fellows interview Tibetan monks at the Gedan Songzanlin Lamasery in Shangri-La, Yunnan, China.

To gain a first hand experience of the aftermath and long-range impact of the Beijing Olympics, seven leading U.S. journalists ventured to China and Hong Kong as part of the East-West Center’s 2008 Hong Kong Journalism Fellowships held in late September. The study-tour, co-sponsored with the Better Hong Kong Foundation and established in 1996, was developed to foster a deeper public understanding in the U.S. of the complex political, economic, social, and cultural issues currently impacting China and Hong Kong.

Following a China seminar at the Center in Honolulu, the participants traveled to Beijing, Shangri-La, Kunming, and Hong Kong, where they engaged in candid dialogue with leaders in government, business, and research, as well as their journalism colleagues, students, and local families. Highlights of the tour included visits to the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Village, the Gedan Songzanlin Lamasery in Shangri-La, and Pudacuo National Park, and meetings with the chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission and the first elected chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The journalism fellows represented a diverse range of print, broadcast, and on-line media outlets across the U.S., coming from the Fox Business Network; Los Angeles Times ; Wall Street Journal Asia ; Arizona Republic ; Minnesota Public Radio; CNN/ American Morning ; and Puget Sound Business Journal .

Hong Kong Journalism Fellows visit the Diquing Branch of Yunnan Buddhism College in Shangri-La, China.

Steve Wilhelm, a staff writer for Puget Sound Business Journal, kept a blog throughout the study tour.  He presents differing perspectives of the impact of the Beijing Olympics on China and shares reflections from key leaders on China’s transition to a more democratic society.  His blog also explores issues of urban planning and development, and China and Hong Kong’s legal system.  After meeting with Wong Yan-lung, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice, Wilhelm wrote that the fact that China has the death penalty and Hong Kong does not is “one of the most distinct expressions of the ‘one nation two systems’ structure that distinguishes Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland.”

Reflecting on China’s path after the Olympics, Wilhelm wrote,
“A ride or two in a Beijing subway can be a view-changing experience, and supports the notion that the strength of the city’s growth is powered by personal energy and drive that won’t be derailed by the end of the Olympics.” Describing the scene, he noted, “Beijing’s newer subway lines glitter with technology. . . the cars are sleek and clean. . .the riders are very purposeful people. . .there’s intention and success in the air.”  He concluded, “The Olympics are over, but China is still competing.”

Click here to read Steve Wilhelm’s China Blog.

Click here for more information about the East-West Center’s Hong Kong Journalism Fellowship Program.

Seminar participants take their place at the starting line in the 2008 Beijing Olympic ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium.