As ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary, local secondary school students gather to discuss the Rohingya refugee crisis and economic integration in Southeast Asia at Hong Kong’s second model ASEAN.
The opening ceremony on 18 August 2017 is attended by diplomats of ASEAN member states in Hong Kong, including Tengku Sirajuzzaman bin Tengku Mohamed Ariffin, Consul General of Malaysia in Hong Kong, and Roderico C. Atienza, Deputy Consul General of the Philippines in Hong Kong.
In his opening address, Tengku Sirajuzzaman noted Hong Kong’s “special ties” with ASEAN, and wished student delegates a “good experience” at the conference.
A Q&A session themed “ASEAN’s Role in Today’s World” followed. Diplomats answered students’ questions regarding ASEAN’s visions and operations.
In response to inquiries about the South China Sea dispute, Erwin Muhammad Akbar, Consul (Economic Affairs) of Indonesia in Hong Kong, stated that ASEAN is “highly supportive of peace efforts” and seeks to foster “a more cohesive and integrated community” in Southeast Asia.
Roderigo C. Atienza, Deputy Consul-General of the Philippines in Hong Kong also suggested that the organisation should try to “maintain a balance in the region rather than having one country [dominating] over another.”
With regards to ASEAN’s future, all diplomats agreed that it is unlikely for ASEAN to transform into a supernational union like the EU. “We are not going towards a common currency,” said Grace Rebekah Teh Mei Shan, Consul (Head of Chancery) of Malaysia in Hong Kong
Singapore shares the same view. “We are not setting a target for ASEAN,” explained Fu Tsz Ho, Consul (Political) of Singapore in Hong Kong. “We come up with ad-hoc consensuses that’s best for the members.”
Last May, ASEAN and Hong Kong finalised on plans to establish a trade pact. A joint free trade agreement is expected to be signed at the end of this year.