Political Science Honed Ph.D. Student’s Identity as Hong Konger Hong Konger at UA Says Political Science Changed His Life

By Pei-Yu, Lin | AZ Daily Star, November 27, 2019 | Go to article overview

Political Science Honed Ph.D. Student’s Identity as Hong Konger Hong Konger at UA Says Political Science Changed His Life


Pei-Yu, Lin, AZ Daily Star


Sanho Chung never thought the first tear-gas grenade would explode, but it did.

He heard the blast while distributing surgical masks, bottles of water, umbrellas and first-aid supplies to protesters in Hong Kong during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, where people demanded to elect their own leader without China’s interference.

He then smelled tear gas. He cursed in his native Cantonese. He knew something bad just happened. He started to run.

Smelling tear gas was “just like you put a bunch of wasabi in your nostrils. The wasabi went down from your nasal passage to your trachea, and you have to cough it out,” Chung said.

“Now … of course, it’s nothing,” he said. “(I’m) getting used to the smell of tear-gas grenades.”

Chung, who identifies himself as a Hong Konger and a participant in social movements in Hong Kong since 2013, started his first semester this fall at the University of Arizona as a doctoral student in the School of Government and Public Policy, at a time of escalating protests in Hong Kong. The UA says 23 students from Hong Kong are enrolled at the university this semester.

Although Chung’s career goal is to become an assistant professor in the United States or elsewhere, he still cares about public affairs in his homeland.

Chung, 26, was born in Hong Kong four years before the United Kingdom ended its colonization and transferred the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China. He didn’t realize the influence of British governance on his hometown until he grew up, Chung said.

His parents were from Fujian, a southern province. He became a fan of Chinese history after his cousin introduced him to “Records of the Three Kingdoms.” When he was in high school, Chung expected to become a high school history teacher himself.

However, he changed his career goal to a university professor after he studied government and international Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University.

“When I got into the Baptist (University) in GIS, government and international studies, I realized, ‘Oh, I love political science and I’m interested in doing research as well,’” Chung said.

Studying political science has changed his life.

“Actually, I called myself politically apathetic in the past,” he said. He just wanted to research history. However, he later realized that history and politics are closely bound.

Chung thought deeper when he learned from John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Max Weber’s concept of sovereignty.

“Put these things into China-Hong Kong relations,” he said. “Hong Kong-China relations, you would realize that one country, two systems is not going to work.”

He first participated in politics on June 4, 2013. Chung went to Hong Kong Victoria Park where people were mourning the 1989 victims of Tiananmen Square through a candlelight vigil. The protesters cried out, “We Chinese must fight for democracy!”

“You would feel like you were participating in a cult,” Chung said.

According to Chung, people who held the vigil believed that only when China turns to democracy can Hong Kong have democracy, and that Hong Kong can be a model of democracy to affect the whole of mainland China. …

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