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Universities around the world recall students from Hong Kong amidst turmoil

Violence in Hong Kong has led universities from around the world to recall exchange students, as six of Hong Kong’s universities announced they are closing early because of the unrest. 

Protesters march against the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill. Photo: Wikicommons

“We are requesting that all of our students in Hong Kong return to the UK"

In Scotland, Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde, Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee and Queen Margaret have requested exchange students to return home, as has Canada’s University of Victoria, universities including UCD in Ireland and the University of Warwick in the UK.  

“We have been advised that these campuses are closing for the remainder of the semester”

“The safety of students is our first priority at the University of Victoria,” Carolyn Russell director of global engagement at UVic, told The PIE News. “Our students in Hong Kong have told us that they are safe.”

UVic has eight students known to be on exchange programs at three partner universities: Hong Kong University, City University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Russell added 

“We have been advised that these campuses are closing for the remainder of the semester, due to the geopolitical and civil unrest. As a result, the universities are providing alternate teaching arrangements for students to complete their term studies through electronic education.

“Our faculties, departments and schools are reaching out to our students in Hong Kong to determine how their situations are impacted, next steps and travel plans.”

Police and protestors have been waging running battles in Hong Kong since early June when the semi-autonomous region’s government introduced a controversial extradition bill, which many fear will compromise Hong Kong’s judicial system.

The latest development in the months of conflict saw 200 anti-government protesters barricade themselves inside The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The standoff began as a result of police targeting the territory’s colleges and universities, entering one of the final bastions of opposition demonstrations.

Students caught up amongst the unrest in Hong Kong have been warned to stay away from the violence.

“We always advise our students to exercise due caution, stay alert, be aware of their surroundings and trust their instincts to remain safe while abroad,” Russell told The PIE.

“We also suggest they enrol in International SOS to receive travel alerts, enrol in the Registry of Canadians Abroad and to follow the Embassy of Canada to China or Consulate General of Canada, Hong Kong, on social media.”

Other universities affected include Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, which has 21 of its students on exchange in Hong Kong.

“We are requesting that all of our students in Hong Kong return to the UK, at their earliest opportunity.

“We are providing advice and support to each affected student to ensure all are in a position to return to the UK,” a spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh told The PIE. 

A University of Bristol spokesperson said that 15 students are studying in Hong Kong on placements.

The spokesperson said the university is booking flights for students who wish to return, and working with their insurers and the FCO to provide support with any students who do want to stay.

University College London, who currently operate a  2+2 program with HKU that sees students study in London for two years and then Hong Kong for two years, told The PIE that it had advised all of its students to leave Hong Kong.

“It’s a very upsetting moment for Hong Kong”

The PIE also has learned that the majority of UCL students have now left Hong Kong and the university is supporting remaining students with their travel arrangements.

Turmoil in Hong Kong is also effecting businesses working in the education sector.

Samuel Chan managing director of consultancy Britannia StudyLink told The PIE that the general understanding is that the government and the police have “exerted unnecessary force”.

“It’s making life very difficult,” he said. “Schools have been seized and the scenes at Poly U and HKU… it’s a very upsetting moment for Hong Kong.”

Another commentator based in Hong Kong added that life is very difficult for businesses in the city such as education agencies, especially those in the Mong kok area. Metro stations have been vandalised and business as usual is frequently impossible.

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