Canadian Universities urge exchange students in Hong Kong to come home

Protests have been ongoing since June amid Chinese government attempts to amend the extradition law

Canadian universities have been urging their exchange students in Hong Kong to return home as the tension between government officials and protestors continues to escalate.

While Concordia University hasn’t released official statement asking students to return early or to put off their exchange, it has been making sure students are up to date on the current political climate of the area.

“We make sure that the students are properly informed of the situation before they go,” said Christine Archer, manager of Concordia’s Education Abroad Programs. “We go according to the travel bans on the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship (CIC) website,”

There are currently no travel bans to Hong Kong on the Canadian Travel website, however, the organization warns any travellers to be extremely cautious.

The protests began in June when the local government attempted to amend extradition laws, allowing criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. This was seen by many as China’s attempt to gain more influence over the semi-autonomous territory, which was interpreted as a risk to Hong Kong’s independence.

Originally a British colony, Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, when it was decided that while the territory would belong to China and it would have its own legal and political autonomy. They have been functioning under the motto “one country, two systems.”

The protests started off peacefully, but have since become violent. On Nov. 12, protests moved from the streets to many of Hong Kong’s university campuses.

On Nov. 17, protesters and police clashed at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, causing a nine-day siege. Since then, most protestors have escaped, surrendered or have been captured by the police reported the CBC.

Some Canadian students in Hong Kong have been cutting their exchanges short and leaving the territory early.

“We did have one student there this semester,” said Archer. “Her host institution ended classes on Nov. 15 and she came home right after.”

According to Archer, currently all of the Concordia students who had planned to study abroad in Hong Kong have changed their minds and have asked to be placed elsewhere.

“Back in 2015, it was stable and I really enjoyed it there,” said former Concordia exchange student Étienne Crête of his exchange to Hong Kong. “It’s one of my favourite cities in the world, but I wouldn’t go back right now. Not until the situation calms down.”

While the situation has gotten better recently, universities across Canada continue to closely monitor the situation, looking out for the best interest of their students.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Letters Home: Denmark

It’s been almost two months since we landed at Montréal-Trudeau and, for the first time, stood on North American soil. We’re two Danish exchange students Jakob and Nanna, majoring in journalism. Montréal is our home until Christmas.

Our first week was extremely stressful with everything being new—but luckily, we had the hostel Auberge Bishop, to give us comfort. The staff was friendly and helpful, the room clean, and the breakfast? Well, we learned to live with the white paper-like toast-bread, the interesting assortment of jam and the unusual bitter coffee.

Danish exchange student Jakob Groth is studying journalism at ConU.

While living at Auberge Bishop, we started our search for a permanent place to live. We sent a bunch of emails to people on the infamous website Craigslist. The weirdest reply we – or Jakob – got was from a guy who wrote, “I know this is unusual but if you would like, you can come sleep over tonight. Try the room, the bed, see the place, meet me. I changed the bedsheets but I didn’t vacuum. Let me know.”

He was probably just being extremely friendly, but…Before leaving Denmark, people warned us.

“Be careful in Montreal,” they told us, “they have this weird thing called poutine.”

And yes, the thought of fries swimming in a pool of gravy with cheese on top did not really appeal to us. However, on our first night in Montreal, we were really hungry, and when we asked the hostel staff where to go for dinner, they instantly recommended the Smoke’s Poutinerie just two minutes away. So, of course, we had to try it.

It was so good! The cheese (is it cheese?) was a bit like rubber, when chewing it, the fries were all wet and incredibly greasy from the gravy, the bacon and the pulled pork made a perfect combination, and we looked at each other feeling disgusted and over the moon at the same time. “We have to eat this again,” we said.

And so we did. Again and again.

We both agree that if our journalistic careers fail when we get back to Denmark, we will open a poutinerie in Copenhagen. It would be a huge success, no doubt about that! We still don’t understand how it can be so good.

There are still a lot of things we don’t understand about Montreal. Take the alcohol policy for instance.

In Montreal, we’ve seen people smoking weed with cops close by, but sitting on the street drinking a beer, are you crazy? One night, Nanna was actually stopped by the police, because she was drinking a beer in the street with some girls. In Denmark, it’s perfectly normal to have a beer in a public place, so how would we know?

We also felt a bit stupid going to the tam-tams, bringing chips that would allow us to drink our beers. Don’t drink on an empty stomach, OK, that’s good advice. However, what difference do some potato chips, an apple or even a black olive really make? Now, if you had to eat a poutine for every beer, then it would be a completely different story…

By the way, we both found nice places to live after five days, Nanna in Little Italy, Jakob in the Plateau. We both love it, we love Montreal and the people who are extremely friendly, and as long as we don’t drink our beers in the streets, we are sure that our time in Montreal will be unforgettable.

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