EAST LANSING, Mich. ⎻ In the city of East Lansing, almost 8,000 miles away from her hometown, Michigan State University sophomore Hallie Tsui tunes in to what marks another day of protesting in her home territory of Hong Kong.
“It’s just slowly escalated,” Tsui said. “Protests have been going on every day for 100 days now.”
The unrest is due to a recent bill that would allow China to extradite alleged criminals from Hong Kong.
“Protests began after a man killed his girlfriend in Taiwan and was hiding in Hong Kong.” Tsui said. “China wanted to extradite him, but people protested because conditions in China are very poor and civil rights laws are not very good.”
The bill could lead to an increase in control for the Chinese government over Hong Kong, which currently governs its own internal affairs, critics say. The proposal has ignited protests across the territory, and Tsui explains the reason for her people’s opposition.
“We’re under one country two systems, where we don’t follow China’s laws exactly,” Tsui said. “Where Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google are banned in China, they’re not banned in Hong Kong.”
“But in 2047 that stops, and Hong Kong goes back to China. That’s why there are so many protests right now,” she said.
The 20-year-old student, born in the U.S. but raised in Hong Kong, said the current political unrest has highlighted the importance of keeping updated on international news.
“In Hong Kong right now, everything is so political,” Tsui said. “So, I do tend to closely follow political news.”
Since Hallie is so far from home, she goes to great lengths to verify the news she receives. As a business preference major, she has a different take on the behind-the-scenes aspects of news in her country.
“The news sites that I usually choose are the most well-known ones,” Tsui said. “But even with those you should be careful.”
In countries like Hong Kong, knowing the business behind news organizations is almost as important as following what they report.
“In Hong Kong there is a news source called South China Morning Post,” Tsui said. “It was based in Hong Kong, but then China bought the company. Now you have to take everything it says with a grain of salt. There might be a bit of propaganda inside.”
Tsui finds it important to keep updated on the major news networks and their ownership. It helps her ensure that sources are unbiased and accurate.
“It really all depends on the research that I’ve done beforehand,” said Tsui. “You have to keep up with the news in terms of buying and selling companies because that will change the agenda of those companies.”
Hallie Tsui is one of 29 students coming to Michigan State from Hong Kong, according to 2018 data gathered by the Office for International Students and Scholars. According to last year’s research, there were 6,260 total international students enrolled from 140 countries.
However, not all international students share Tsui’s opinions on the importance of following the news.
Thea Brunn, a first-year student from Norway, said she rarely stays updated on reporting back home.
“I just don’t really read the news,” Brunn said.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, younger people are lighter consumers of news on average than older ones. However, they have been found to read news media on mobile devices at a similar level to older users.
Some Michigan State students say they prefer to receive the news via social media instead of traditional methods.Swedish junior William Broberg says he uses primarily social media to find news about home.
“Yeah I keep updated about the news, mostly with social media,” Broberg said. “That’s a big thing now, to get sponsored news in your feed.”
Broberg adds that he doesn’t subscribe to traditional methods of receiving the news, instead opting to use the internet for his source of information.
“I don’t really read the paper a lot,” Broberg said. “If I get news, it’s definitely from social media, like Twitter.”
Although Brunn, like Broberg, frequently uses social media, the 21-year-old says she doesn’t seek out news on those sites.
“It’s so accessible with apps,” Brunn said. “I do have Snapchat, and sometimes there’ll be news on there, but I don’t have Twitter, and that’s where you’d get the most information.”
However, Brunn does admit that there is one occasion when she closely follows the news: when it affects her directly in the moment.
“If I see something relevant to me, I will check the news. When there was a bomb threat in the Hannah Administration Building, I looked that up,” Brunn said.
Brunn says she is able to remove herself from foreign issues, but when a news story is unfolding around her, it seems important to be kept up-to-date.
“I searched online and saw what the threat was, what would happen and what the police would do,” Brunn said. “If I see something interesting, I will keep looking into that and dig.”
Like Brunn, 22-year-old Broberg pays attention to news happening around him.
“The politics in America is interesting actually. I do read a lot of that,” Broberg said.
According to him, the Swedish news media focuses strongly on foreign coverage of American news.
“During the presidential election, Swedish news stations had it covered a lot. I also read a lot when Trump tweets. I follow him on Twitter– he tweets a lot.”
However, not all developed countries prioritize the coverage of foreign affairs. According to an article by Tony Burman titled “World Perspectives: Ignoring the World at Our Peril,” “many in the world’s industrialized countries, particularly in the United States have turned inward.”
“In the developing world, there have been aggressive efforts to expand coverage and provide alternative voices to the Anglo-American monopoly,” the article said. “In contrast, many of the world’s largest commercial news organizations — particularly the major American broadcast networks — have mirrored their sense of the perceived public mood by reducing world coverage.”
This reduction in foreign news coverage is in part motivated by investors, who claim that the American public isn’t interested in things happening outside of their borders.
“Companies have reacted to pressure from shareholders and to apparent indifference from audiences by shrinking the relatively small amount of space and airtime they devote to ‘foreign news,’” the article said.
That is something that Tsui has seen first-hand in her comparison of news at home and coverage in the U.S.
“I think the U.S. doesn’t focus as much on international news,” Tsui said. “Only the most important information will be reported. During times where the U.S. has a lot to report on, say, elections, their news will focus on that instead.”