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 But by the time the extradition bill was withdrawn, the protests had broadened into a resistance movement against the territory’s government.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

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Syringa Provincial Park is popular camping destination. Photo: Betsy Kline
Water upgrades coming at Syringa Provincial Park

Upgrades at the popular camping and day-use park will be ready for 2021 reopening

South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Sooke’s Amy McLaughlin holds Theodore, a bunny who will be going to a new owner in Nanaimo within the coming days if all goes will at an upcoming bunny play-date. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Vancouver Island woman looking to hop into bigger space for bunny rescue operation

Amy McLaughlin has rescued more than 400 bunnies, pushing for the capacity to help more

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Most Read