Sophia Yan, China Correspondent, answers YOUR questions!

Sophia Yan_no photo credit.jpg

Hi everyone! It’s very nice to meet you all. I’m a journalist for the Telegraph, based in Beijing. My job is to bring interesting, newsworthy stories to all of you in the UK and around the world from my patch, the greater China region. Sometimes my stories ARE about politics; sometimes they’re about pandas!  


Why did protesting start? 
willing_flight, Arnhem Wharf Primary School

Protests first began because Hong Kong people were upset over an extradition bill, a proposed law that would have sent suspects to face trial for alleged offences committed in mainland China. 

Many people began participating in peaceful marches as a way of speaking out against the passing of the bill. They were worried those being sent to mainland China wouldn’t have the right to a fair trial.  Almost all - 99.9 per cent - who go to trial in China are found guilty.

That’s because mainland China is governed very differently than Hong Kong. In the mainland, the Chinese Communist Party exerts much influence over many government institutions, including the courts.

Hong Kong, however, has long enjoyed greater freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, independent courts and open markets. This is known as the "one country, two systems" policy, and those rights are meant to be guaranteed under terms agreed when the British Empire returned Hong Kong - then a colony - to China in 1997. That agreement is called the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

In the 22 years since then, some Hong Kong people have grown very concerned that those freedoms and rights are disappearing under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. 

The extradition bill I mentioned at the top is one example of why people are worried about losing those rights. While the bill was what sparked the protests, people continue to demonstrate because of those wider concerns to keep their freedoms.


What could be the outcomes if the UK intervened?
Memorable_orchard, Michael Faraday School

The UK has a range of options to impact the potential outcome. All of them would put pressure on the central Chinese government and also the Hong Kong city authorities to act sooner rather than later, and in a humane manner, to end the unrest.

One idea some MPs have suggested is to use sanctions - commercial and financial penalties that would affect money China and its government officials get, which could pressure key leaders in Hong Kong and China to find a solution.

The British government could also take this up at the United Nations and declare China in breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a legally- binding international treaty for both parties involved. That’s the agreement I mentioned earlier when Britain ceded Hong Kong back to Beijing.

But how the UK acts on this specific issue could impact it’s overall relationship with China, a key trading partner.


One idea some MPs have suggested is to use sanctions - commercial and financial penalties that would affect money China and its government officials get, which could pressure key leaders in Hong Kong and China to find a solution.

Sophia Yan


How much of the Hong Kong crisis is being shown in China's news? Does it make Hong Kong look like the victim or the instigator? 
Vibrant_tiger, Woodhill Primary School

Hi Vibrant_tiger, That is a very thoughtful question and one I follow closely as a journalist.

China doesn’t allow freedom of speech - government censors filter news and information, and official propaganda control the message sent to the public. For example, foreign news websites can be blocked online, some books aren’t allowed in the country, and social media posts can be deleted without consent.

When the protests first began a few months ago, there was no mention of them at all in China’s news outlets, all of which are controlled by the government. On July 1, the anniversary of when Hong Kong was returned by the British to Beijing, that all changed. That day, a radical group of protesters, some of whom were teenagers, broke into the city’s legislature building. And that’s when Chinese state media began to report selectively on the protests, showing chaos and destruction without fully explaining why they are so upset. As a result, many people in mainland China don’t have full knowledge of the situation, such as why the protests started and what has caused so much public anger against the government. 


What do you think will happen to Hong Kong next?
Adaptable_beetle, Boutcher C of E Primary School

The protests look set to disrupt the city for a while longer - there is no end in sight at the moment. At first, the protesters wanted a formal withdrawal of the extradition bill. In September, city leaders finally agreed to do so. This is expected to be finalised in October.

But protesters have grown increasingly upset with how the government and police have handled the protests. Their demands now include the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, to resign; for an independent inquiry into police actions; and for all rioting charges against protesters to be dropped, considered a serious offence that carried a maximum of ten years in prison.

Hong Kong protesters are also calling for direct elections to pick their leader, because they don’t feel their government is representative and reflects their voice.

For now, Hong Kong leaders haven’t indicated any willingness to concede to any of those demands. If things continue, then the central government in Beijing might also choose to intervene by sending Chinese military or police to restore order, but doing so would be complicated politically and give the impression that Chinese authorities had lost faith in Hong Kong leaders to handle the situation on their own.


If things continue, then the central government in Beijing might also choose to intervene by sending Chinese military or police to restore order, but doing so would be complicated politically and give the impression that Chinese authorities had lost faith in Hong Kong leaders to handle the situation on their own.

Sophia Yan

Comments (15)

  • Graveney-logo-250x250.jpg lovable_writer | Graveney School
    14 Oct 2019

    Have you met or interviewed anyone who has protested? Do you think that their protesting will make a change?

    Reply to this comment
    1. Sophia Yan EXPERT: Sophia Yan
      lovable_writer's comment 23 Oct 2019

      Hi @lovable_writer,

      Indeed I have. One thing that’s been interesting is the vast range in age amongst protesters – from young children to the elderly – which indicates a broad swath of society feels strongly about the issue.

      The protesting has already impacted change, and it’s possible more changes could come. This week, the Hong Kong government formally withdrew the extradition bill that protesters were fighting against, though their demands have now escalated as I explained earlier.

      P.S. I like your username!

      Reply to this comment
  • Hammond School logo outstanding_turkey | Hammond Junior School E
    14 Oct 2019

    In your opinion do you think Britain should intervene and why???

    Reply to this comment
  • The Sherwood School excited_pineapple | The Sherwood School
    15 Oct 2019

    Do you agree with what is going on and why?

    Reply to this comment
    1. Sophia Yan EXPERT: Sophia Yan
      excited_pineapple's comment 23 Oct 2019

      This is an interesting question! What’s important to note here isn’t what I do or don't agree with (and as a journalist, it is my responsibility to remain unbiased and present all sides to the audience) but to understand that Hong Kong people are exercising their right to free speech and assembly to make a point to their government.

      Yes, there is a faction of more radical protesters using more violent means, and that is not a matter to take lightly at all. Some rather serious injuries have occurred among police, protesters and journalists covering the story. Protesters, however, are using those means to draw attention, because they feel previous tactics of peaceful protest have not been effective.

      Reply to this comment
      1. The Sherwood School excited_pineapple | The Sherwood School
        Sophia Yan's comment 24 Oct 2019

        OK, that makes sense to me. What would happen if you were bias?

        Reply to this comment
  • The Sherwood School logical_drum | The Sherwood School
    17 Oct 2019

    how will we stop this bad violence

    Reply to this comment
    1. Sophia Yan EXPERT: Sophia Yan
      logical_drum's comment 23 Oct 2019

      Hello @logical_drum, Bringing closure to a situation as complicated as this one will take many people listening carefully to each other to see how they can reach a compromise satisfactory to all sides. This often is much easier said than done as tensions rise.

      Reply to this comment
  • Michael-Faraday-logo-250x250.jpg precious_heart | Michael Faraday School
    18 Oct 2019

    What are the consequences if Britain intervened?

    Reply to this comment
  • Michael-Faraday-logo-250x250.jpg openhearted_twilight | Michael Faraday School
    21 Oct 2019

    If we intervene with Hong Kong will it ruin our relationship with China?

    Reply to this comment
    1. Sophia Yan EXPERT: Sophia Yan
      openhearted_twilight's comment 23 Oct 2019

      There are a few questions about whether the UK should intervene and what the impact might be. I’ll answer them here.

      To a certain extent, the UK government has a responsibility toward Hong Kong, a former British colony. The Sino-British Joint Declaration does legally bind both the UK and China to uphold the treaty agreement.

      But if the UK acts in a way that China feels is overstepping, that could certainly impact the UK-China relationship. That's because China sees Hong Kong as a domestic issue, and one that should be resolved internally. While that is technically true, it’s not unusual for nations to put get involved with other countries over issues of international importance, like this one. Sometimes, outside intervention or mediation can help resolve the situation.

      China and the UK maintain a close trade relationship, so that could be one area where ties could be impacted if the Chinese government was upset with the British government.

      Reply to this comment
  • The-Ruth-Gorse-logo-250x250.jpg creative_sparrow | The Ruth Gorse Academy
    21 Oct 2019

    I’m so impressed with all the questions being put forward to all of the six experts because all the answers given by them are so fascinating to read. Especially Sophia Yan, who is based in Beijing, and is able to tell us the truth of China’s censorship on all foreign news, the extent they go to and how the majority of China’s citizens are kept clueless to real facts. Also, when Sophia Yan tells us “Almost all - 99.9 per cent - who go to trial in China are found guilty” I was shocked, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s China after all. So imagine being in China and if you were falsely accused of even the most smallest of crimes, or someone wants to frame you, it’d be so easily done (eg. someone plants some drugs into your pocket) you would never be able to prove your innocent, in effect you’d be guilty the moment you are a suspect.

    Reply to this comment
    1. Sophia Yan EXPERT: Sophia Yan
      creative_sparrow's comment 23 Oct 2019

      Thank you very much, @creative_sparrow, and to the rest of the Burnet News Club, for reading! I hope you will all continue to follow the news in the UK and around the world!

      Reply to this comment
  • Lyons Hall Primary School entertaining_wolverine | Lyons Hall Primary School A
    24 Oct 2019

    Do you think that violent protesters and police are okay to use violence or do you think that they should not be using violence in protests? Personally I think that they shouldn’t because it could lead to serious injuries of innocent people (people that aren’t using violence).

    Reply to this comment
  • Boutcher-logo-250x250.jpg content_lemon | Boutcher C of E Primary School A
    24 Oct 2019

    Do you know if the protesters in Hong Kong tried to approach Carrie Lam, and talk to her about the matter? Or did they know that if they'd say anything, they would get in trouble, so it'd be useless?

    Reply to this comment

You must be logged in to post a comment