Featured Article: “Why Are People Protesting in Hong Kong?”
The protests that have shaken Hong Kong this summer began with huge demonstrations in early June against an unpopular bill. Since then, the protests have become a broader movement against Beijing’s power in the semiautonomous territory.
In this lesson, students will learn more about the movement in Hong Kong and compare it with others throughout history. Then they will decide: Are protests an effective way to bring about change? Will this one make a meaningful difference?
What comes to mind when you hear the word “protest”? Take a few minutes to jot down all the associations you have with this word.
If you’re stuck, here are a few questions that can help get you thinking:
What protests do you know of from history or that have happened recently?
Why do people protest? What are their goals?
Where do protests happen?
What groups often play an important role in protests?
What strategies, symbols or objects do protesters use to draw attention to their cause?
What images come to mind when you visualize a protest?
What thoughts and feelings come up when you think about protests you’ve learned about or those you’ve been involved in yourself?
Can protests bring about meaningful change?
Now, take a moment to scroll through the visual timeline below of the protests happening in Hong Kong. Do they look like any of the protests you have learned about or attended yourself? In what ways do they resemble the ideas about protests that you wrote about above? In what ways do they differ?
Note to teacher
If you’re a teacher doing this warm-up in a classroom context, you might conduct the activity as a “Graffiti Board” or “Chalk Talk.” Write “protest” in the center of a whiteboard or large piece of paper and invite students to write their associations on it. Then, discuss as a class what you notice.
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. What is the latest news concerning the protests in Hong Kong? Why is this most recent turn of events so significant?
2. Hong Kong and China exist under a policy known as “one country, two systems.” What does that mean? Why has this policy caused tension between the two in recent years?
3. What is the extradition bill and why is it so unpopular among Hong Kong residents?
4. How have the demonstrations unfolded since they began in June? How have protesters’ concerns evolved?
5. What tactics have demonstrators used to bring attention to their cause?
6. What role have the police played in these demonstrations? Why have protesters clashed with them?
7. How has the Hong Kong government responded? How has the Chinese government responded?
8. What do you think will be the outcome of these protests in Hong Kong? Why?
Can protests effect meaningful changes in governments and societies? Do you think the movement in Hong Kong will?
Think about other protest movements that you know from history that have or have not brought about change. How do they compare to the one happening in Hong Kong?
You might compare the Hong Kong protests with one you have learned about in school. Or, choose one from recent history to research. Here are a few examples you might dig into: the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the anti-apartheid struggle, Tiananmen Square, the Velvet Revolution, Iran’s 1979 revolution or the White Rose resistance.
Then, write about or discuss with your classmates:
Was this movement successful? How do you know? What do you think made this protest a success or failure?
In what ways is the movement you chose similar to or different from the Hong Kong protests? For example, consider the type of governments they had, the tactics the protesters used, the police response, how well organized they were or even the imagery.
How can the movement you chose help you predict what might happen in Hong Kong? Do you think the Hong Kong protests will bring about meaningful change? Why or why not?
Over all, do you believe protests are an effective way to make a difference in a society? Explain why you think the way you do.
Note to teachers
If you’re doing this “Going Further” in a classroom context, you might conduct the activity as a “Jigsaw.” Assign or have small groups of students choose one of the protest movements above to explore in depth. Then, invite them to share what they learned with the rest of the class and compare the movements with each other.