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Asia Reporting Fellows get Hong Kong hit

Image: Sam Colombie/HKU

Image: Sam Colombie/HKU

JNI’s 2020 Asia Reporting Fellows have undertaken a three-day intensive, featuring lectures and workshops with Asia experts, and guided virtual tours of Hong Kong.

The Asia Reporting Fellowships were created by JNI, with partners at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Journalism, to help mid-career journalists increase their knowledge and engagement with Asia.

Thirteen Fellows were chosen for the 2020 fellowship. But the coronavirus pandemic meant overseas travel was not possible in 2020 and 2021.

To ensure Fellows still received information and experiences about Asia to inform their reporting, JNI and HKU curated a hybrid, virtual experience for Fellows, combining expert lectures with original virtual tours of key Hong Kong localities.

Stepping out in Hong Kong

Video journalist and HKU lecturer Diana Jou took Fellows on three live, interactive guided virtual tours of Hong Kong: a wet market and typical Hong Kong home; the city’s historic Central and Admiralty districts, where the Umbrella protests occurred; and an insider’s view into a gathering of one of Hong Kong’s largest cultural subgroups.

Jou and historian John Wong explained Hong Kong’s history, including its growth from a tiny British colony after the Opium Wars of the 19th century, through its handover to China in 1997, to the current melting pot of Western and Asian cultures. This laid the groundwork for understanding what drove the Umbrella protests in 2014 and 2019-20.

Jou’s second tour gave Fellows a look into the lives of the 380,000 migrant domestic workers who live in the city, and contribute enormously to Hong Kong’s economy and social structure.

On average, these women work between 44 and 96 hours a week. Almost all live with their employers, but many do not have their own room or private space. On Sundays the workers, who are mostly Filipino and Indonesian migrants, gather in Central to socialise and rest.

For the third tour Jou met up with Edith Lam, who showed how wet markets  — much maligned by Western media after Covid-19 emerged — are an essential part of everyday life in Hong Kong (and many places around the world). The visit to Edith’s home gave insights into the housing pressures in Hong Kong today. 

Expert insight into Hong Kong’s politics, economy and media

Fellows also attended briefings conducted by HKU lecturers Keith Richburg and Samuel Colombie.

Lectures covered a range of topics, including the state of the economy, media, press freedom, and politics in Hong Kong, and explored the changing identity of the city’s inhabitants.

Richburg, Jou and Colombie were joined by expert speakers, including Quartz reporter Mary Hui, investigative reporter Bao Choy, Chair of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association Ronson Chau, former legislative member Emily Lau, the FT’s South China correspondent Primrose Riordan, and Chair of Gabriela Hong Kong, an alliance of progressive Filipino organisations, Sheila Tebia-Bonifacio.

The Asia Reporting Fellows are now working on stories with journalism graduates from the University of Hong Kong, harnessing the opportunity for international collaboration.

JNI looks forward to the time when international travel recommences, and the Fellows can undertake the full Asia Reporting Fellowship program as planned.