UBC asks exchange students to leave Hong Kong as protests rock universities
VANCOUVER -- The University of British Columbia is recommending that all 32 of its exchange students currently in Hong Kong leave the semi-autonomous region.
Hong Kong has been rocked by protests since June, sparked by legislation that would have allowed the extradition of Hong Kongers to mainland China. In recent weeks, the clashes between groups of protesters, and between protesters and police, have become increasingly violent.
Over the past week, student protesters occupied several Hong Kong universities, creating barricades and clashing violently with police who were attempting to remove the protesters. Technical University in Denmark urged its exchange students to leave, saying that some student dormitories have been set on fire.
The Associated Press reported on Nov. 13 that student protesters at Chinese University had armed themselves with gasoline bombs and bows and arrows; but on Nov. 15, reported that police had regained control of that university.
UBC got in touch with all 32 exchange students by Nov. 15, Murali Chandrashekaran, vice-provost of international students, said in a statement. Simon Fraser University also has 17 exchange students in Hong Kong, and has been in touch with all of them and offered support if those students want to leave, according to the university. All of the SFU students have confirmed they are safe.
The UBC and SFU students are studying at Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Hong Kong University.
Chandrashekaran said UBC has reached out to those universities to make sure "measures are in place to ensure the safety of our students" and is encouraging any students who do stay to keep checking International SOS, a medical and travel services company, for any updates.
Chandrashekaran also said UBC is ready to help any students who need assistance with making travel plans to get home.
Hong Kong residents began protesting five months ago after the introduction of legislation that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland. Activists saw it as an erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy under the "one country, two systems" formula implemented in 1997, when Britain returned the territory to China.
The bill has been withdrawn, but the protests have expanded into a wider resistance movement against what is perceived as the growing control of Hong Kong by Communist China, along with calls for more autonomy for the territory.
With files from The Associated Press