Doha in Qatar was the venue for a group of eager teens to get round the table with some of the world's best talkers
|By Ben Allen, La Salle College|
While people in Hong Kong were celebrating the Lunar New Year, the Hong Kong debating team was proudly carrying the Bauhinia across the globe to Doha, Qatar, for the 22nd World Schools Debating Championship 2010.
Although the team lost in the Octofinals, it was a rewarding experience.
After two gruelling rounds of selection in Hong Kong, six team members were eventually chosen - five to compete and one reserve.
Captain Benjamin Allen (La Salle College), Annette Chau (Sha Tin College), Prakash Sanker (South Island School), Heather Pickerell (German Swiss International School) and Paul Lau (South Island School) were joined by reserve Arthur Chan (Li Po Chun United World College) after the final trial on October 4 last year.
The team coach was Greg Forse - a long-time professional who gave his time up to train the team. He was the coach in the Washington debate in 2008 and a debater in the Calgary debate in 2005. His guidance and support were crucial to the team.
Managing and organising the team was Michael Evershed, a veteran English teacher from South Island School and a former debater, who also helped in training the team.
The championship is a well-respected event, and brings together teams from all over the world to debate on a variety of topics, ranging from motions focused on current affairs to those speculating the theoretical.
The five-member teams have one hour to prepare and three are chosen to debate.
Each speech lasts eight minutes, with a reply speech of four minutes. Points of information, which allow the opposing team to interrupt a speaker, are also allowed.
Hong Kong has an excellent track record of always 'breaking' - moving to the knockout stages after the eight preliminaries - as well as being ranked among the top 16 teams in the world.
However, the team was hard pressed to keep that record with 57 countries competing and surprisingly strong teams from countries such as India and Sri Lanka. Hong Kong did manage to break in 16th position, narrowly beating South Korea. In the end it was Hong Kong's 6,075.5 points against Korea's 6,072.
The team took part in 13 debates - nine official and four informal spar debates with other countries, including Israel, Indonesia and Korea.
Of the eight preliminaries, Hong Kong had four prepared debates against Chile, Germany, Bulgaria and Mongolia, while our impromptu motions were against Wales, Bermuda, Singapore and Slovenia.
With solid performances, especially in the first debate against Chile where Hong Kong was, by points, the best team in the world on that motion, we gained a perfect score of four unanimous wins for the four prepared debates. But in the impromptu rounds, we faced some serious opposition from Singapore, Slovenia and Wales, which we all lost by close margins.
We faced Australia in the Octofinals, where we were knocked out. But in their last performances on the world stage in high school debating, Annette and Prakash gave speakers ranked No1, 2 and 4 in the world a hard time. The debate was called 'An unconvincing win for Australia' by a Qatari newspaper.
In an epic final battle between Canada and England, Canada emerged as the world champions this year, winning 8-3 on the motion 'We should never bail out big companies'.
Debate HK, an organisation headed by Forse, has been getting more support.
After not sending a team last year, encouraged by this year's results and looking forward to next year's event in Scotland, team Hong Kong is already gearing up.