John Doe, who has requested his anonymity, is watching the protests going on at home with concern.
John Doe, who has requested his anonymity, is watching the protests going on at home with concern.

John Doe, an international student from Hong Kong, wants to go home again. His home right now is riven with protest and uncertainty, and talking about it carries risks.

“I’m going back sometime next year, and I hope the riots are finished by then,” he said.

John Doe is an obvious pseudonym, as the Chinese government punishes citizens who speak out against it, so John has to be careful about what he says before coming home.

“My family operates a business that deals with Mainland China,” he said. “And even if they don’t punish me, they’ll punish them.”

While he studies here, he’s watching what goes on there. The cause of the protests, he said, is complicated.

“It’s like a perfect storm of things,” he said.

Hong Kong was a British territory until 1997, and residents of Hong Kong receive a lot of special advantages until those laws expire in 2047. The taxes are lower, they have unfiltered internet access, free speech and the right to assemble.

The conflict began when Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, appointed leaders in Hong Kong that tried to change Hong Kong law to be more in line with Chinese law.

“There’s also almost a level of elitism that those in Hong Kong hold against those from mainland China,” he said. “And the protests have only made the problem worse.”

Even dialects play a role: In Hong Kong, the language is Cantonese. Those from mainland China speak Mandarin.

“Though the languages are similar like Portuguese is to Spanish, the two are different and the Chinese are ostracized because of it,” he said. “Even in schools growing up, the teachers taught us that we were better than those from the mainland and that they should be looked down upon.”

But John fears that there might be other ramifications involved with the protest: damage to the economy, the closing of universities in Hong Kong, forcing them to move to online-only courses so students can graduate.

“I understand protesting, but do it peacefully,” he said.

Current UNL Senior majoring in Broadcast Production from Kent, Ohio.