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