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TFAS Students Explore Democracy in Hong Kong


A student asks a question during a lecture at TFAS Hong Kong 2019.

This weekend, 65 young leaders from 18 countries will join the 42,000-strong TFAS Alumni Network after completing their final week in the TFAS Hong Kong program.

Over the past month, as tensions and protests in Hong Kong intensified, TFAS students witnessed firsthand the value and human desire for freedom and democracy as they studied the principles of free societies.

Participating in this valuable program provides students the ability to challenge their own beliefs, learn about other perspectives, and foster an appreciation for cultural differences.” – Madeleine Morlino, United States Air Force Academy

Students explore Repulse Bay, a popular beach destination on the southern part of Hong Kong Island.

Madeleine Morlino ’19, a rising fourth-year cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, called the program an unmatched opportunity that has allowed her to engage with other intellectually curious people from around the globe.

“The TFAS program provides a unique environment for constructive dialogue about some of society’s most pressing issues,” Morlino said. “Participating in this valuable program provides students the ability to challenge their own beliefs, learn about other perspectives and foster an appreciation for cultural differences.”  

Dr. Ed Feulner, founder of The Heritage Foundation, speaks to TFAS Hong Kong Students on foreign policy and diplomatic relations.

The program has provided a nonstop learning experience for the young leaders since they arrived on Hong Kong University’s campus three weeks ago on July 6. The students, who represent countries across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, have encountered new ideas, cultures, sights and sounds each day in Hong Kong. 

Taught by returning TFAS professors Dr. Nikolai Wenzel and Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Thomas, the courses allowed students to examine political and economic principles and consider how those ideas relate to democratic philosophy, development and trade. 

Students pause for a photo with a historic city trolley on the Hong Kong Island tour.

Azat Akimtay, a student from Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, said despite having previously explored some of the course topics highlighted in the program, he “was able to see familiar concepts and ideas from a new perspective” due to the diverse cultures and variety of nations represented at TFAS Hong Kong. 

“Being a part of such a diverse class of talented individuals is a privilege, and I am grateful to TFAS for this life-changing experience,” Akimtay said. 

Being a part of such a diverse class of talented individuals is a privilege, and I am grateful to TFAS for this life-changing experience.” – Azat Akimtay, Nazarbayev University 

Outside the classroom, students bonded and explored the city together by visiting Repulse Bay, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Museums and the bustling night markets. 

Students listen and take notes during a lecture at TFAS Hong Kong 2019.

Throughout the program, students attended guest lectures where they heard from leaders in business, economics, policy and philanthropy in both Hong Kong and the United States.

Guest speakers included: The Heritage Foundation founder Dr. Edwin J. Feulner; Executive Chairman of El Pomar Foundation and TFAS Vice Chairman International Mr. William J. Hybl; founding Chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party Mr. Martin Lee; Director of the Global Innovation Hub at the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Mr. Armin Reinartz; Chairman and Founder of the Crown Worldwide Group of Companies Mr. James E. Thompson; and Managing Director and Head of Media for Asia and Europe at NexChange Mr. Andrew Work.

First-time TFAS guest speaker Mr. Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, also addressed the TFAS Hong Kong 2019 class. During his lecture, he drew on his extensive experience to provide a thorough analysis of the political climate in Hong Kong.

“Mr. Martin Lee is a man who has dedicated his life to public service. He has been an unyielding and spirited advocate for the people of Hong Kong and the principles of a democratic system,” said program director Brenda Hafera. “Hearing him speak was a rare opportunity for our students and a privilege for TFAS.”

To learn more about the TFAS Hong Kong program, visit TFAS.org/IntlPrograms.


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