British Columbia

UBC advises exchange students in Hong Kong to leave amid clashes

The University of British Columbia has advised its 32 students participating in a study abroad program in Hong Kong to leave due to the ongoing tensions.

University says there are 32 UBC students studying at universities there

A protester scuffles with a riot police officer during an anti-government demonstration in the Central District in Hong Kong, China, Nov. 13, 2019. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

The University of British Columbia says it has reached out to 32 of its students who are currently on exchange in Hong Kong, advising them to leave. 

Hong Kong has been the site of increasingly violent protests ever since the beginning of June this year. This week, the protests took a violent turn after one man was shot in the chest and another set on fire. 

Murali Chandrashekaran, a vice-provost with UBC, said in a statement they had reached out to all their exchange students to discuss options around their time in Hong Kong. 

"UBC is working closely to support students who have decided to leave Hong Kong by connecting them to the appropriate academic and student services resources to ensure a smooth transition," the statement read.

Though they advise students to leave, Chandrashekaran, says any UBC students who choose to remain in Hong Kong should be mindful of directives from their host university. 

The students are in the following schools: Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Hong Kong University.

People observe a moment of silence at a vigil for student Chow Tsz-Lok in Hong Kong, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Chow Tsz-Lok, a Hong Kong university student was killed after falling off a parking garage when police fired tear gas during clashes with anti-government protesters. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

The pro-democracy protests were sparked by the introduction of a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to China. 

Although the bill was later withdrawn, the protests — which involve tens of thousands of people — have continued. 

Bernice Chan, a former CBC reporter working as a journalist in Hong Kong, said the government has offered no political path out of the quagmire. 

"They're basically hiding behind the police and giving the police more licence to do whatever they want, [arresting] protesters, even bystanders who just happen to be there," Chan told Gloria Macarenko the host of CBC's on On The Coast.

"That just makes people even more angrier and they come out even more to protest, so it's this endless cycle that we're seeing."

Formerly large scale protests were occurring only on the weekend, but this week, protesters hit the streets during the week slowing traffic to a crawl. Universities cancelled classes this week due to the unrest.

"It's been very difficult," Chan said. "One of the tunnels was shut down by student protesters. That effectively shut down a major traffic artery for a lot of people as well."

Although she hasn't seen people leave the territory because of the protests, it's definitely more of a concern among Hong Kongers. 

"I have local friends who are really seriously looking into emigrating," she said.

"At the same time, they feel like Hong Kong is their home and they really want to be here. So, it's a very difficult situation for everybody."

With files from On The Coast

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