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Intern Keeps an Eye on Human Rights

Vincent Hsia

Vincent Hsia, SIS/MA '09, worked with watchdog group, Human Rights in China, in the Empire State Building.

Vincent Hsia '09 has taught in Chinese factories, lived in villages, and been a commentator on Asian American issues for National Public Radio. So during the 2008 Beijing Olympics his attention turned again to China. Last summer he worked with the watchdog group Human Rights in China, tracking the situation as the games enfolded. 

But he wasn’t in China. The School of International Service master’s student was based at the Empire State Building in New York City, where he scoured the Chinese media and independent sources for buried information.  

“There are thousands of protests every year in China, but only the major ones are reported,” he says. Last summer Hsia made it his job to ensure that, if rights were violated, word would get out. 

Chinese language skill leads to NPR

Speaking Chinese, of course, was key. But his native language didn’t seem like a benefit when, in third grade and speaking no English, he came to the U.S. from Taiwan

“It was a pretty harsh adjustment,” Hsia recalls. By college, however, his English was so good that National Public Radio ran his news reports.

After college, he explored mainland China. First, he taught English to factory workers. “They were young migrants from rural areas, and I wondered: If all the young people are in factories, what’s happening in the villages,” he says. 

He decided to find out. So Hsia went to a rural area to work with community groups. What he saw and heard sometimes shocked him. In one case, police raided a village after a dozen HIV-positive villagers petitioned the government for medical supplies. 

China experience leads to Korean studies

It was partly his concern for human rights that drew Hsia to graduate school AU where he decided to study the country he experienced on his way to and from China: Vibrant, bustling South Korea with its complex security challenges.

“It made a really strong impression on me,” he says. “One of the reasons I applied to SIS is that they have a strong Korea focus in their program.” 

SIS has a dual degree program with Korea University and summer abroad opportunities in Korea. AU also offers courses in Korean. Hsia is in the dual degree program and will earn a degree from both institutions