On the 30th of November, CDS and HKPASS hosted the first joint debate between the two societies, aiming to foster a better understanding about various issues between students from Mainland China and Hong Kong. The motion of the debate was, “It is in Mainland China’s own interest to continue the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ arrangement for Hong Kong in 2047”, with CDS as proposition and HKPASS as opposition. Both sides had half an hour to prepare their arguments, and all speakers performed well given the time constraints and degree of individual experience. The debate ended with a majority vote for the opposition.
Here are the HKPASS debaters’ thoughts on the event!
Walking to school that Monday was particularly tough. Just recovering from a fever, my throat still hurt from the simple act of swallowing. It was an icing on top to face the whirling winds of London. But I decided to get out of bed and quench my illness because that was no simple Monday, it was the Monday of the friendly debate tournament between HKPASS and CDS.
Bearing through the day, the hour struck and I, along with all the other debaters, met in the preparation room. Papers, with two motions printed on them, were handed to the teams. Discussion began followed by a vote, and eventually, the motion was set: It is in Mainland China’s own interest to continue the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement for Hong Kong after 2047. CDS was the affirmative and HKPASS was the negative. We split into separate rooms and preparation began. Our team started by breaking down the motion into smaller definitions, contexts and proceeded into constructing arguments. We simultaneously offered challenges and counter-challenges in order to fortify the claims. When it was felt that the case was almost ready, we split the arguments according to our speaker roles and headed into the arena. Game time.
The debate began with a speech from the first speaker in the CDS team who introduced the motion. Subsequently, different speakers came and went. We offered points-of-information, picked out their logical gaps and argued our own positions…But to only see this is to only see the surface of a debate. The true beauty of this friendly exchange is the fact that the entire time, we had to consider in the shoes of a different stakeholder—Mainland China and her interests. Some of us are complete binaries towards the stakeholder, antagonized may be the more appropriate phrase. Such is the crux of debating, the true lesson only comes when we are willing to throw our biases aside and to see the other side of the coin, not just see it, but think like it and argue for it. And that I believe, is the real value in debating, an exercise for the openness of exchanges.
The debate was a fantastic experience. The excitement in my blood completely overwhelmed the slight inner anxiety in my heart, as I always enjoyed debates, especially the ones about political and economic affairs. And there went the debate – Cody, Janice and I represented HKPASS against our seemingly smart and well-prepared Chinese counterparts. The topic was provocatively intriguing: it is in China’s interest to maintain the ‘one country two systems’ arrangement after 2047. Interesting enough, the debate was conducted in such a way that we argued for the case of China, that is, the motion that it is not in China’s interest in maintain such an arrangement after 2047.
The debate started rather peacefully. Both my teammates and the Chinese side pronounced their arguments decently. But then it was my turn. I started by making counter-arguments before I made my points on the internationalisation of the RMB, and then I ended my argument with some waffles. The Chinese side obviously spotted the ‘mediocracy’. One of them questioned my sincerity in honouring the role Hong Kong played in the context of the debate. ‘But the topic was about China, not much about Hong Kong,’ I replied. Yet I got an awkward feeling straight after I uttered these words. The room, on the other hand, fell into silence as I went back to my seat. Yet the following speaker from the Chinese team broke this silence with an impassioned counter-argument. His speech was nothing but emotionally exciting.
We ended up in victory. But the fact that we the representatives of Hong Kong won a debate by arguing the case for China may court deep reflections. The single most important thing I learnt from this experience, however, is that even when you are made to speak for something that is different from how you see the world spin, it is of enormous significance that you do not get carried away from your views by that. After all, you do not live as a debater, you live as your own man.
I found this experience to be both intellectually stimulating and quite nerve-wracking, mainly because the topic is so controversial. Although I understand that the aim of the debate was to make the participants consider the issue from the viewpoint of those on the other side of the border, I actually agreed with our stance, that it is not in Mainland China’s own interest to continue ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Although I have considered the possibility of China continuing ‘One Country, Two Systems’, I felt that China’s internal instability would give the Chinese government enough incentive to remove a system that was both creating and allowing such agitation in Hong Kong, if only to show the rest of China it’s unquestionable authority. There are other reasons I think ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is unsustainable from the Chinese perspective, but that is the main one.
Although the debate itself was very interesting, I felt that the best part was the open Q&A. Instead of each team needing to have just one strong argument, the individuals making up each team could speak their own mind. I expected that within the HKPASS team there would be disagreements regarding the future of Hong Kong (and there were), but hearing the disagreements within the CDS team about the feasibility and appropriateness of democratizing China was quite an eye-opening experience for me. It’s an unfortunate prejudice, but I subconsciously group all Mainland Chinese into one, faceless mass of ‘Other’, despite knowing that they are individuals with different opinions. The first step to solving conflicts is to solve ignorance, to recognize and push aside biases and see things from other perspectives; I believe this debate served as that first step for me, and I endeavour to move forward from here on. Hopefully, others feel the same way.
Many thanks to the debaters from CDS, Eric Li (HKPASS), Matthew Cheung (HKPASS, CDS) and David Hu (CDS) for making this event possible.