International students recalled from Hong Kong

Exchange students from around the world advised to leave as violence intensifies

November 17, 2019
Hong Kong
Source: iStock

Australians have joined the exodus from Hong Kong, with the University of Sydney ordering exchange students in the strife-torn territory to return home.

The move followed decisions by six Hong Kong universities to suspend classes for the final two weeks of the semester. Students from Europe, mainland China and Taiwan have also been urged to leave, while some cross-border exchange arrangements with mainland universities have been put on hold.

The universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Warwick in the UK are among other overseas institutions that have reportedly recalled their students, as is the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Queensland.

They stepped in after campuses became focal points for the increasingly violent protests afflicting the territory, with battles fought at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Students and other protesters have reportedly attacked police with petrol bombs, bricks and flaming arrows, while the authorities have responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

A Sydney spokeswoman said students had been advised to contact the university’s student mobility and exchange team if they had concerns for their safety or wanted assistance getting to Australia. She said the university had offered to help claim reimbursements for costs associated with the “changed circumstances”, such as flight alterations and accommodation.

“This situation is not unique,” she added. “We’ve supported students’ return from other cities when universities have closed at times of social unrest.”

The spokeswoman said Sydney staff had been “checking in” with its students at Hong Kong universities since the protests started in June.

Students have been told that they can complete their courses remotely.

On 15 November, CUHK president Rocky Tuan appealed to students and staff to leave the campus as soon as possible “in view of the emergency situation so that peace and order can be restored”.

The following day, Chinese soldiers reportedly removed roadblocks from Hong Kong streets, in their first active involvement in the turmoil.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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