By Olive Martin
— Five AUC students currently on exchange in Hong Kong were informed by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) of the option to be repatriated last Thursday after civil unrest spilled into university campuses at both Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). At CUHK, courses were cancelled for the rest of the semester.
Last Thursday at 11:17 p.m. Hong Kong Standard Time, UvA’s Office of International Student Affairs sent an email to both UvA and AUC students in Hong Kong. The email expressed concerns for student safety.
Adriana Rocks, a third-year AUC student on exchange at CUHK, had already fled by the time she had received the email. Her decision to leave was prompted by the ongoing demonstrations at CUHK, involving police and demonstrators who traded tear gas, rubber bullets, and petrol bombs. After she packed only a small bag and left the rest of her belongings in her dorm, Adriana booked the cheapest flight she could find and flew to Vietnam where she still waits to see what her next move will be. “I have a flight back to Hong Kong on Tuesday, but I doubt I’ll take it. I don’t think it will be safe for me to go retrieve my belongings because they just sent the People’s Liberation Army in.”
Since the demonstrations and confrontations have intensified, the Ministry has decided that they needed to revise their travel advice classification. The email from UvA was delivered promptly after the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs changed its travel advice classification from green, “no special security risks” to yellow, “security risks.” A media representative from the Ministry explained that they are keeping in close contact with the Consulate General of the Netherlands to assess the state of the situation.
After viewing footage from CUHK’s campus, the International Office at AUC has also determined that there are safety concerns. Marcus Smit, AUC’s Internationalisation Officer, says “Although the travel advice may never turn red, the campus situation is not good for students right now.”
The UvA is offering the option for students who are currently studying at one of UvA’ s partner institutions in Hong Kong to return to Amsterdam, or to fly to another destination. If students choose to leave, they will be reimbursed for all travel costs by Hienfeld Insurances, UvA’s insurance provider. Additionally, AUC’s International Office has assured AUC students who wish to return that alternative housing will be provided, as their rooms are currently being sublet to exchange students.
In addition to reimbursing travel costs, UvA’s Office of International Student Affairs is working closely with university staff in Hong Kong to continue providing classes online.
Coralie Boon, another third-year AUC student on exchange at HKBU found the email unexpected. “It was especially surprising because it happened so quickly,” Boon wrote in a message. She explained that “Within less than 24 hours the entire situation changed.” Although Boon says that she still doesn’t feel unsafe, she has chosen to finish her courses in Thailand. She was supposed to meet her parents there in early December but decided to move her flight earlier in light of the escalating circumstances.
Universities around the world have urged students on exchange in Hong Kong to return home. Georgetown University in the United States, University College Dublin in Ireland, and The University of Queensland in Australia have also communicated to their students that it is no longer safe to study in Hong Kong.
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was written, edited, and fact-checked by students of the journalism course. Some content may have been altered by The Herring’s editors for clarity and style.