Aspen Institute UK
The Future of Hong Kong

Since the transfer of its sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed by a ‘one country, two systems’ approach, which has allowed it to retain a level of independence in its social and economic systems. But in recent years the Hong Kong parliament has become increasingly pro-Beijing and moved to change laws pertaining to freedom of movement and expression. Protests in 2019 against plans to allow extradition to mainland China continued into 2020, when Beijing imposed a national security law that gave it powers to punish critics and silence dissenters. Dozens of pro-democracy activists and lawmakers have been arrested and many more have been forced to flee the region, and the UK government has opened a visa scheme for citizens to come to the UK.

Big questions remain about the future of democracy in Hong Kong, and whether there is hope yet for the pro-democracy movement. What does this mean for Hong Kong’s relationship with China, and the role Hong Kong plays within President Xi’s plans? What impact might migration to the UK and elsewhere have on Hong Kong society? Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s location puts it at high risk from the impacts of climate change – how is the region planning for a greener future?


Prashant Rao – Prashant is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Global section. Previous to joining The Atlantic, he was Deputy Europe Business Editor at The New York Times, and Iraq Bureau Chief at Agence France-Presse.


Simon Cheng – Simon is the founder of the expat organization Hongkongers in Britain (HKB), and holds degrees from the London School of Economics and National Taiwan University. He is an exiled pro-democracy activist, Hong Kong BN(O) citizen, and was granted refugee status by the UK in 2020.

Laurel Chor – Laurel is an Emmy-nominated freelance journalist, photographer, filmmaker, and National Geographic Explorer from Hong Kong. She has worked with VICE, HBO, SHOWTIME, the New York Times, Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Reuters, Getty, National Geographic, and others all over the world. In 2020, she was named an honoree for the IWMF Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism award for her work during the 2019-2020 Hong Kong protests. She is currently studying for a Masters in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management at Christ Church, Oxford University. An accomplished rugby player, she represented Hong Kong in the 2017 Rugby World Cup.

Ines Gafsi – Ines is the Co-Founder of Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide. She leads FEW strategic partnerships and sponsorships, and special programs like FEW incubator “Invest in Women Who Tech”. Ines is also leading the Hong Kong chapter of an international charity Inspiring Girls empowering girls to believe in their dreams by connecting them with female role models. She has served as a speaker at the SCMP’s Game Changers, AmCham Women of Influence awards and was voted “Top 10 Female Entrepreneurs in Hong Kong” by Hong Kong Tatler.

Professor Shirley Ze Yu  – Shirley is a leading voice on China’s political economy. She is Director of the China-Africa Initiative at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa, the LSE, and a Senior Practitioner Fellow with the Ash Center of Harvard Kennedy School. She is also an MBA professor at the IE Business School and an Honorary Distinguished Foreign Faculty Professor at the National Defence University, Islamabad. Shirley is a member of the Davos Expert Network on China, 5G, and geo-economics. She is the creator of a daily intelligence and insights newsletter on China for Fortune Global stakeholders-China BIG Idea by Yu & Partners, and a NY-based business talk show Hey China! Shirley Yu is a frequent commentator and contributor to the BBC News, Bloomberg, CNN, Al Jazeera, PBS Frontline, SP Global, Channel News Asia on China. She is an Op-Ed contributor to the FT and is appointed as a South China Morning Post Expert.