The University of British Columbia (UBC) has cancelled its second term for exchange students in Hong Kong as it works to bring those students back home from the territory over safety concerns.
Hong Kong’s universities have become the latest battleground between police and protesters who have been staging increasingly violent demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for five months now.
UBC says 31 of its students were attending four universities in Hong Kong, and 20 have left the area since the school began urging their return last week.
The remaining 11 are safe and have been accounted for, UBC says: six have firm plans to leave before the end of November, two are working with the school on travel plans, and three are staying with family in Hong Kong and wish to remain there.
“We recognize that the students might be disappointed, and we share in that disappointment as well,” UBC’s vice-president for student affairs Ainsley Carry said Wednesday about the cancellation of the term.
“We are working with our partner institutions and universities in Hong Kong to determine whether our students can complete their term from a distance, to ensure that they receive the academic credit that they have worked so hard for.”
The students are being offered $1,000 in emergency funds to help them in their travels. UBC says 27 of them have accepted the money.
The students were studying at Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Hong Kong University.
Those schools have suspended their classes as the violence continues, and UBC says it does not know when the universities will reopen and resume operations.
Last week, Hong Kong Polytechnic University — which UBC does not have a partnership with and was not hosting UBC students — was occupied by protesters and blockaded by police.
The days-long standoff was mostly over by Wednesday, with only a handful of protesters remaining over fears of being arrested if they ventured outside.
Since a police siege of the campus began Sunday, more than 1,000 people have been arrested and hundreds of injured treated at hospitals, authorities said.
Protesters also took over the Chinese University of Hong Kong last week, with students hurling firebombs at police before barricading themselves inside the main campus. They began to leave that school last Friday.
Hong Kong’s primary and secondary schools reopened Wednesday after shutting down for six days over safety concerns.
Hong Kong’s protests began over an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China to face trial. Opponents saw it as a threat to the “one country, two systems” framework that gives Hong Kong its relative autonomy.
The bill has been withdrawn, but protesters are now demanding fully democratic elections and an independent investigation into police actions in suppressing the protests. City leaders have rejected these demands, and said violence must stop before meaningful dialogue can begin.
—With files from the Associated Press