University of Manchester students studying abroad in Hong Kong are being recalled, following violent protests in the region.
The University said they were “advising students that they should leave Hong Kong immediately” due to “the deteriorating situation”. Classes have been suspended for the remainder of the semester at the area’s major universities.
A recent statement from the Foreign Office said there had been “clashes around a number of universities, with a particular focus at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in Sha Tin (New Territories).” UoM currently has links with three universities in the area, including CUHK.
A spokesperson for the University told The Mancunion: “We have been advising students that they should leave Hong Kong immediately and are assisting with arrangements for them to do so. This is a fast moving situation so our duty of care towards our students is paramount.
“Because of the deteriorating situation, there will be no further classes at all major Hong Kong Universities this semester. We have also been taking expert advice from our travel and risk specialists.”
The University of Manchester is currently partnered with the CUHK, University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
In an online statement, the Foreign Office advised: “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.”
Other UK universities, including Warwick, Sheffield, and Edinburgh, are also reported to be repatriating students currently in the region.
The decision follows months of violent protests in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to China for trial. The bill was withdrawn in September, but the demonstrations have failed to cease.
Protests have become increasingly violent over recent weeks – last Monday, police shot an activist in the torso with a live bullet.
Second-year Drama and English Literature student Cameron Taylor, who studies at the University of Manchester but lives in Hong Kong, said he felt the University had made the right decision to repatriate students studying in Hong Kong:
“I think the unis have absolutely made the right call, the situation is slowly worsening, and given China’s appalling human rights records it’s impossible to write out an excessively violent retaliation from police forces.
“All over the city things are manic – and ultimately student safety has to come first – now that the police have been targeting the universities it’s only fair to cancel classes as it’s just unsafe otherwise.”
Kyle, an ex-UoM student who studied abroad in Hong Kong in 2017-2018, said that Hong Kong felt “extremely safe” at the time, but that the Vice Chancellor at his exchange university (Chinese University of Hong Kong) had recently been tear gassed when trying to negotiate for the police to leave campus.
Rob, who was raised in Hong Kong but studied in the UK, compared the current state of affairs to that of West Berlin during the Cold War, due to the high degree of ‘pressure from outside the territory’.
He described the University’s decision to recall exchange students from Hong Kong as ‘wise’, as he feels the situation is far more volatile than before: “I went back to Hong Kong in April and in September this year. I was shocked by the difference.
“The city is basically covered by propaganda and you can smell tension in the air.”
Alongside fears regarding the safety of his friends protesting, he also expressed concern about the possible effects of so much tear gas being released: “When I was back in Hong Kong in September I had so much skin irritation. I live in a neighbourhood called Yuen Long and they have released tear gas there several times.”
Manchester has also been the site of demonstrations, as last month Hong Kong students studying in the city demonstrated in solidarity with those in Hong Kong.
Protestors told The Mancunion: “We need support from locals and international students here because it will continue to help keep the spotlight on Hongkongersʼ struggle.”