Simple English Listening

E13: The HONG KONG Story, Part 2 - 1898 - 2014 (Intermediate English)

August 28, 2020 Tristan Palumbo Episode 13
Simple English Listening
E13: The HONG KONG Story, Part 2 - 1898 - 2014 (Intermediate English)
Simple English Listening
E13: The HONG KONG Story, Part 2 - 1898 - 2014 (Intermediate English)
Aug 28, 2020 Episode 13
Tristan Palumbo

Learn new vocab and about Hong Kong!

Read the words here: 

Here, I speak in SIMPLE English about exciting topics. The best way to learn is to listen to as much English as possible which is ONE level above your level. This way you pick up maximum amounts of new language and pronunciation naturally.

These podcasts are for pre-intermediate, intermediate and upper-intermediate learners. 

My name is Tristan, from England. I'm a native speaker and I've been a qualified English teacher for nearly 10 years and taught in five countries - UK, Italy, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam. I have post-graduate qualifications in education and English-teaching. 

Show Notes Transcript

Learn new vocab and about Hong Kong!

Read the words here: 

Here, I speak in SIMPLE English about exciting topics. The best way to learn is to listen to as much English as possible which is ONE level above your level. This way you pick up maximum amounts of new language and pronunciation naturally.

These podcasts are for pre-intermediate, intermediate and upper-intermediate learners. 

My name is Tristan, from England. I'm a native speaker and I've been a qualified English teacher for nearly 10 years and taught in five countries - UK, Italy, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam. I have post-graduate qualifications in education and English-teaching. 

Hello lovely, wonderful English learners, 

Welcome to the Simple English Listening channel. Here, we speak about interesting and exciting topics in simpler English, so you can understand.  

Today's episode follows from the last episode on this channel, titled 'How Hong Kong Began'.

Please subscribe so you do not miss these episodes about every two weeks. 

Look, I know it's been four weeks since the last episode but it took me that long to research and write this podcast. I really went down a rabbit hole! The research and writing - it never ended!

There's no video today because it's too long. Instead, we have a two-part podcast so get your earphones, put me in your ear and relax.

This podcast is intermediate level, so it might be a little bit difficult for some of you but you will still benefit from listening and you will still learn some new language. Remember, the more times you listen, the more you will understand.

And remember, the best way to learn English is to listen and read - listen and read to as much English as possible which is just one level above your level. So, listen and read language with simpler vocabulary with a slower speed like this podcast! This way, you learn maximum amounts of new language naturally and enjoyably!

And finally, if you want the transcript for this episode ('transcript' meaning, the words), please click on the link in the video description on the Youtube or Facebook page.

Okay, today we'll learn all about Hong Kong, from its beginning in 1860 up to the situation now. Hong Kong has been in the news a lot over the last two years, especially. There have been protests there. 'Protests' mean, there have been people gathering in the streets in large numbers, holding signs, shouting, chanting songs, sometimes even fighting. Many people there are not happy right now and they want change. This is why they are protesting. The word 'protest' is a verb and noun.

Hong Kong is a small island of about 8 million people just off (just next) to the coast of southern China. From 1860 to 1997 Hong Kong was part of the British Empire, however, it was returned to China peacefully in 1997. 

To put the previous episode in a nutshell, which is an idiom which means to summarize the previous episode - to 'put it in a nut shell'.

There were two wars between Britain and China called 'The Opium Wars'. At the end of these wars in 1898, both countries signed a treaty (a 'treaty' meaning, they signed an agreement) that Hong Kong would be a British colony for 99 years - that Hong Kong would be a British colony until 1997.

After the treaty was signed, Hong Kong quickly became an international business hub. It became the link, the connection between China and the west. It became very wealthy, very rich and even today, Hong Kong along with Singapore (which was also a British colony) are the two most expensive cities in the world today to live in.

An international community developed there in Hong Kong and is still there. People there enjoy a very high standard of living. Also, the arts thrived in Hong Kong, especially the Hong Kong movie industry. A free and open society is of course a good foundation for creativity to blossom and flower.

Now, from the 1940s, Hong Kong became a refuge for people fleeing (running) from mainland China and the big political changes there, such as the Chinese cultural revolution. This revolution was when China became a one-party communist country, which it still is now. Actually, in the 1940s alone over 100,000 refugees moved to Hong Kong ('refugee', a noun meaning someone who must move to a new country because it is not safe for them in their old country).  Many hundreds of thousands of refugees moved to Hong Kong from China in the following decades (a 'decade' means, a period of ten years. A 'century' meaning a 100 years, a 'decade' means 10 years).

During British rule it was difficult for mainland Chinese citizens to visit Hong Kong. There was a big international border, with passport control, immigration etc.. Chinese leaders made it difficult for their citizens to visit because, well Hong Kongers had a salary (were being paid) 40 times more than mainland Chinese citizens and Hong Kongers had free speech and could freely talk about, criticize and participate in politics. These were maybe things that Beijing did not want her citizens to see or be influenced by. 

For now on, when I say 'Beijing', I mean the mainland Chinese government. In English, when we talk about the relationships between different country's governments we use the capital city name. For example, if we talk about the American government we say Washington thinks this, Washington thinks that. If we're talking about for example, the Russian government, we say Moscow thinks this and that. When we talk about China's government we say Beijing, for short. For example: the relationship between Washington and Beijing has hit a 5 year low.

Quickly, can i ask? Do you prefer these audio-only podcasts with the transcripts to read or do you prefer the whole video presentation, like in my previous videos? Let me know what you prefer in the comments. Which is more useful to you?

Okay, Hong Kong and mainland China have completely different government systems. They are completely different political ideas. Like anything, both of these systems have advantages and disadvantages.

First, the Chinese system: 

In China you have one political party. This, is the Chinese communist party. Communism is a political idea made popular by the German philosopher Karl Marx and Vladmir Lenin. Let's call the Chinese communist party the 'CCP' for short. They (the CCP) have had power in China since 1949. Ordinary citizens like you and me, do not vote, meaning, people cannot choose another party or government. There is just one party. Historically, with this system, there is limited free speech or expression. You cannot speak against or criticize the government because this causes instability. Communism relies on everyone working together, as one unit, being united. In the CCP (the Chinese communist party), the justice system meaning the courts, the judges, the lawyers are a part of the government and decisions in the courts can be influenced by the government. The justice system is not fully separate from the government.

Advantages (benefits) of this system is that politicians can make very long-term projects, goals, economic strategies (unlike in western democracies where the leadership changes every 4 or 8 years). They say in China, when a politician does a new initiative (a new project) they may have died from old age by the time we see the fruits of its success.

This Chinese system is also influenced by culture. I've lived in the far east of Asia for 8 years now. I've lived in Korea, Japan and Vietnam. The mentality here, ('mentality' meaning, the way people think) is that people consider themselves to be a part of the wider whole. They think about the collective, the group. What benefits the group? However, in western culture, there is more emphasis on empowering the individual. Both these cultures have different ideas about what leads to success and strength in society.

So that's enough about China. Now, in the small island of Hong Kong, they have a more western-style, capitalist, individualistic, free and democratic government system. This is influenced by the British system, which is an extremely different government system to China, well, it's the opposite, pretty much!

In this system, people vote (they choose new leadership) every five years. The current leader of Hong Kong is a woman called Carrie Lam by the way, you may have seen her in the newspapers. There is free speech in Hong Kong and citizens can freely participate in politics. In Hong Kong, the government and the justice system (meaning, the laws, the courts, the judges), they are all separate from the government. They are not a part of the government, unlike the Chinese system. Other countries that have a justice system that is separate to the government are Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and most other western countries.

So, as you can see, the mainland Chinese and the Hong Kongese political systems are very different - they are, practically, opposite systems. 

Hong Kongers have lived this way since 1898. They are used to this way of life. It is the only way of life they know.

Hong Kong was British - it was leased to Great Britain until 1997. So, in 1997, Hong Kong (with a very very different political system and lifestyle) would have to be returned to China. It was in the contract! How do you unite (bring together) the two? It was always going to be a great challenge.

As the big day of the 1997 handover came closer in 1984, Great Britain and China signed an agreement. This agreement said that the UK would give back Hong Kong in 1997 if China would allow (would let) Hong Kong to continue its own justice system of judges and courts and making it's own laws, and could continue its social and economic systems: capitalism, free speech, democracy etc..

China agreed to this. China, together with Britain agreed that Hong Kong would continue it's own systems for 50 years from 1997 to the year 2047. 

They named this system - the 'one country, two systems' policy. 

They lowered the British flag in 1997 and they raised the Chinese flag over Hong Kong. There was a handover ceremony, speeches by the leaders of the two countries and by Prince Charles. On that day, there were protests outside of about 50,000 people but they were peaceful ('protests' meaning, people gathered together, made speeches, shouted slogans, waved British flags etc.. a protest).

China kept her promise and so began the 'one country, two systems' policy, preserving (keeping) the Hong Kongese way of life. You can say 'Hong Kongese' or 'Hong Konger', both are correct. 

Hong Kong continued to be the main international business hub of east Asia. In fact, in 1997, Hong Kong, a city of about 8 million people was responsible for 18% of China's GDP (GDP = gross domestic product - the economic output / productivity of a country). So, 18% came from just Hong Kong! But now, Hong Kong produces only 3% of China's GDP. This tells us how quickly the mainland Chinese economy has grown in the space of just over 20 years.

Now, often, since 1997 there have been protests in Hong Kong. These protests are usually against Beijing and the Chinese communist party's influence over Hong Kong. Hong Kongers are proud and protective of their way of life (their free speech, their more democratic system, separate justice system etc..) Historically, when they feel the Hong Kongese way of life is under threat from Beijing, they protest.

Remember, we say 'Beijing' when talking about the mainland Chinese communist party - the CCP.

Hong Kong has been a part of China since 1997 and since then, Beijing has tried to slowly integrate Hong Kong with China, which means, to slowly get them to become more like, and a part of China.

A couple of examples of these protests are in 2003. Half a million Hong Kongers protested against new laws that Beijing wanted to enact in Hong Kong.

Beijing wanted laws that said that any criticism or acts against the Chinese government such as treason, secession (meaning wanting an independent Hong Kong) and subversion would become a crime with up to life in prison! So they wanted it so you could not say anything against Beijing or criticize it.

Of course, Hong Kongers did not like this so, they protested - over 500,000 people! They saw this as a threat to their free speech and political freedom.

Let's quickly clarify what 'free speech' means. Free speech means you can say whatever you like about the government without getting into trouble. Some countries have free speech such as the USA and the UK, and some countries do not have free speech such as China and Iran, for example.

Actually, part of China's agreement with the UK in 1984 said that Beijing was allowed to pass this law, to punish acts that are critical against the CCP but every time they tried to pass this law, there were big protests in Hong Kong against it.

In 2012, there was another protest. This time, because Beijing wanted to change the Hong Kong education system. They wanted to change what children were taught in schools, to show Chinese communism in a more positive light.

Now, we get to the bigger protests! 'The umbrella movement'. The umbrella movement was a collection of protests which lasted from September to December 2014. For 2 and a half months. It was named 'the umbrella movement' because of the yellow umbrellas protesters would carry to protect themselves from tear gas ('tear gas' is the gas thrown by riot police which makes you cry and makes your eyes sting). 

Now, these protests attracted more than a million people (in a city of 8 million) and there was always at least 100,000 people protesting in the streets at any one time. Protesters would sit down together, occupying and blocking traffic and cars from major city road intersections. So, parts of the city were closed to traffic and business for 77 days.

 The purpose of the umbrella movement was to protest against changes in the Hong Kong government. Instead of having free open democratic elections, Beijing wanted to choose who Hong Kongers could vote for. Therefore, Hong Kongers could vote democratically, but only from a group of people pre-chosen by Beijing. So, they could only vote for a leader from a group of politicians that were pro-Beijing.

In the end, the protests were stamped out, they were ended by force by the police. This made many young Hong Kongese feel that the government didn't listen to them. We say, it made them feel disenfranchised (not listened to) with the political system. They grew up thinking they could participate in politics but learned in 2014, that maybe that wasn't true anymore.

Actually, these umbrella movement protests from 2014 were famous around the world for the peaceful attitude of the protesters. We can also say 'demonstrators'. Demonstrators, protesters - these words are synonyms. On all of the world's news TV stations, there would be video clips at this time of students blockading (blocking) city intersections, but still sitting down and doing their homework together or, a video of the protesters opening up like the Red Sea in front of Moses to let ambulances through.

So this brings us to the recent protests, which were much less peaceful, which you'll learn about in the next and final episode of this series, which is already written - I just need to record it!

Remember, please tell me if you prefer these longer audio-only podcasts with downloadable transcripts (like this) or the video lessons that I've been doing in previous episodes. Or maybe, you like both? What's more useful? Maybe you like videos sometimes and audio-only podcasts sometimes. Let me know in the comments. This channel is for you, as well as me, of course. It's 'our' project.

I will release the next episode as soon as possible, okay? So, hopefully, in the next week. Make sure you're subscribed to the Youtube, the Facebook page, and any podcast apps you use, such as Spotify, Itunes yadah yadah yadah so you don't miss the next episode.

Okay, take care now, my angels.

Have a lovely day.