UVic exchange students leave Hong Kong amid turmoil

UVic exchange students leave Hong Kong amid turmoil
(Tyrone Siu/REUTERS). Photo courtesy of CBC
Police detain protesters who attempt to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University during clashes with police in Hong Kong on Nov. 18.

The University of Victoria says the eight students who were completing exchange programs in Hong Kong this semester have returned to Canada.

The eight students were attending three partner universities in Hong Kong.

Carolyn Russell, director of the Office of Global Engagement at the University of Victoria (UVIc), says they have been advised that the three partner universities (Hong Kong University, City University of Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong) are closing for the remainder of the semester.

“As a result, the universities are providing alternate teaching arrangements for students to complete their term studies through electronic education,” Russell said in a statement.

UVic students who were planning to go to Hong Kong in January are now working with staff to discuss alternative options. Russell said faculty and staff who may have been planning travel to Hong Kong are encouraged to be in touch with the Office of Global Engagement to discuss travel safety abroad.

“The safety of students is our first priority at the University of Victoria. 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. 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,” Russell said.

Protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory were sparked by a proposed bill that would have allowed certain criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China to face charges, a move that opponents viewed as a blow to Hong Kong’s legal independence.

The bill has been suspended, but the protests have grown to include demands such as universal suffrage when electing Hong Kong’s leaders, amnesty for protesters who have been arrested and an independent investigation into the use of force by Hong Kong police.

Last week, Hong Kong Polytechnic University became the latest battleground in protests that began peacefully in June before turning violent with clashes between police and protesters. Police blockaded the university after hundreds of students occupied the campus.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has cancelled its second term for exchange students in Hong Kong. UBC said Wednesday 31 of its students were attending four universities in Hong Kong and now 20 of them have left the area.

Under Canadian travel advisories, the federal government recommends travellers exercise a high degree of caution due to ongoing large-scale demonstrations.

With files from The Canadian Press


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