Many universities in the UK have called back their students who are studying abroad in Hong Kong, as the situation within the territory continues to worsen. These include the universities of Warwick, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Glasgow, Dundee and Southampton.
Since June, there have been mass protests in Hong Kong as students, activists and other protesters call for full democracy. According to the BBC, protestors have started to take over university campuses in the region, “building barricades and stockpiling petrol bombs and other weapons.” As a result of this, various universities have been stormed by the Hong Kong police.
On Wednesday, the 13th of November, the Chinese University of Hong Kong said that it was cancelling all classes for the rest of term, and asked its students to switch to online learning platforms that it would provide. This comes after a violent confrontation between protesters and the local police force at the university, which has been deemed a ‘war zone’. Over 1,000 rounds of tear gas were allegedly fired on campus grounds during the stand-off.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office published a statement that said: “there have been clashes around a number of universities, with a particular focus at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Sha Tin (New Territories). If you’re studying at a university where protests are taking place, you should avoid areas where protestors are gathered, take extra care when moving around the campus and follow the advice of the authorities.”
In response to the escalating situation, universities across the UK have decided to call their study abroad students back home. According to a University of Edinburgh spokesman, the university is providing support to all 21 of its students in the area to ensure that they can all return to the UK.
Similarly, a spokesperson from university of Aberdeen said: “Arrangements are being put into place to bring our exchange students home. The safety of our students is paramount.”
The university of Warwick is advising its students to come home, offering them reimbursement for their flight tickets. In an email sent to students, Warwick said: “it is no longer appropriate for our students to remain.” The universities of Birmingham and Nottingham have also given their students the option to return, but have not called them back yet.
With so many universities calling back their students due to concerns over personal safety, people are anxious to see whether prime London universities such as LSE, UCL and King’s will react similarly.
King’s has not yet addressed the issue.