Protesters cover with umbrellas from tear gas canister in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. As night fell in Hong Kong, police tightened a siege Monday at a university campus as hundreds of anti-government protesters trapped inside sought to escape. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Protesters cover with umbrellas from tear gas canister in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. As night fell in Hong Kong, police tightened a siege Monday at a university campus as hundreds of anti-government protesters trapped inside sought to escape. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Some Canadian universities are urging their exchange students in Hong Kong to consider returning home as the semi-autonomous Chinese territory is beset by escalating violence between government officials and pro-democracy protesters.

Dozens of Canadians remained in Hong Kong on Monday, according to several institutions reached by The Canadian Press — many of which said it would be in their students’ best interest to flee the violence.

So far just one Canadian school, Montreal’s McGill University, has reported a partnership with Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the campus at the centre of a tense police siege.

But students at several schools have already begun heeding widespread warnings and cut their exchanges short.

The University of British Columbia said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left the territory.

“Given the ongoing tensions in Hong Kong, the university has reached out to all UBC students studying in Hong Kong to discuss their options and ensure they feel safe and supported should they decide to leave,” UBC said in a statement. ”Our recommendation to them is that they leave.”

Protests have been raging in Hong Kong since early June, but have escalated in recent weeks and begun spilling over into post-secondary institutions that have opted to suspend classes early in a bid to curb the violence.

The protests started peacefully, sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. But by the time the extradition bill was withdrawn, the protests had broadened into a resistance movement against the territory’s government.

Universities have become the latest battleground for the protesters, with a police blockade of Hong Kong Polytechnic University fuelling anger and prompting dramatic efforts to help students stuck inside.

The battle for control of the campus began last week as demonstrators fortified the campus to keep the police out. On Monday, cornered by security forces determined to arrest them, they desperately tried to get out but faced a cordon of officers armed with tear gas and water cannons.

McGill said the ongoing violence has prompted campus closures at some of the schools where 22 of its students were completing exchanges.

“There is now a clear and strong message from our partner universities in Hong Kong to end the semester early,” the school said in a statement, noting the “vast majority” of students have opted to follow the university’s guidance and leave the city.

Simon Fraser University near Vancouver, Kingston, Ont.’s Queen’s University, and the University of Toronto said officials have contacted all students on exchange in Hong Kong and are helping make travel arrangements for those who wish to leave.

While Queen’s issued a formal statement urging its 15 students to return to Canada, Simon Fraser and U of T did not. However, both schools say they’re working closely with their exchange students — numbering 17 and 20 respectively — to help them fly out of Hong Kong.

The University of Toronto said in a statement that it is “working closely with each partner organization and each student to determine the best approach for helping students stay safe and have a smooth academic transition plan.”

Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to request for comment on the situations facing Canadian students in Hong Kong. But the government is urging Canadians in the area to exercise “a high degree of caution” as a result of the political unrest.

– With files from The Associated Press

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jon Lefebure went back to construction after losing the 2018 mayor’s post in North Cowichan to work on the Cottages On Willow. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Former North Cowichan mayor retools priorities with construction project

Fresh air a benefit and satisfaction results from building eight-unit housing complex

Protesters stand in front of a truck carrying logs to the WFP Ladysmith log sort. (Cole Schisler photo)
Protesters block entrance to Western Forest Products in Ladysmith

Blockade cleared by Ladysmith RCMP around noon, December 2

A truck arrives with a load of logs at Western Forest Products’ mill in Ladysmith. More work will be coming to the Ladysmith sawmill in February, says WFP. (Black Press file photo)
More work at Ladysmith mill in new year, says Western Forest Products

Company says Ladysmith operation to see second shift in February

After a brief closure, Roberts Street Pizza will reopen with an updated COVID-19 safety plan. (Cole Schisler photo)
Roberts Street Pizza reopens December 3

The store closed for a few days to update their COVID-19 safety plan

Ben Maartman, pictured in his ‘farm office’ has been elected as Area H director. (Ben Maartman photo)
Ben Maartman declared Director of CVRD Area H

Maartman will be sworn in on December 8

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are inviting audiences into their home for ‘A Celtic Family Christmas’. (Submitted)
Natalie MacMaster coming to you through Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Here’s your chance to enjoy the famed fiddler in an online show with her husband Donnell Leahy.

Most Read