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Irish students studying in Hong Kong forced to return to Ireland amid violent protests on campus

Students from UCD, Trinity College and NUIG are in discussions about returning as a result of the protests.

Students use umbrellas as a shields during a clash with police at the Chinese University in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Students use umbrellas as a shields during a clash with police at the Chinese University in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Image: Kin Cheung

IRISH STUDENTS ON study abroad programmes in Hong Kong have been asked to return home by Irish universities after violent pro-democracy protests spilled over onto university campuses. 

Protests have been ongoing in the autonomous Chinese region for five months, sparked by a controversial extradition bill which was put forward by Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam. 

The demonstrations have been taking place in the city and its surrounding areas, and this week spilled over into university campuses, prompting officials in Irish universities to recall their students studying abroad. 

The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong, which partner with Irish institutions, have suspended classes for the rest of the semester. 

Police in Hong Kong reported petrol bombs being thrown at them as well as being shot at with arrows. Police responded to the actions by firing tear gas.  

At The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on Tuesday, protesters barricaded the campus and fired petrol bombs and bricks at police who arrived at the scene. 

A number of Irish students from UCD are currently attending CUHK, as well as Hong Kong University (HKU), and Professor Mark Rogers, registrar of UCD, has requested they return home.

“We have been in direct contact with our students on exchange in CUHK and HKU. We have also been in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs,” he told TheJournal.ie.

“Both of these universities have been closed for the remainder of the term. We have recommended to our students that they return home, and working with our partner universities, we are providing them with the services and supports they need to do so.”

Several other universities in Ireland, including NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, and Maynooth University also offer study abroad programmes in Hong Kong.

There are currently seven students from NUI Galway studying at institutions in Hong Kong. A decision has been made to transport these students back to Ireland.

Arrangements are being made to ensure course requirements can still be met when they return. 

“NUI Galway has been monitoring the situation closely and has taken the decision to arrange for the return of seven students on exchange with partner Universities in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson said. 

“NUI Galway is arranging for the seven students to meet with their academic coordinators on their return to Galway to discuss their academic requirements via online teaching with Hong Kong from NUI Galway, or alternative course work.”

A spokesperson from the Global Relations Office at Trinity College Dublin also said it was monitoring the situation closely and it was up to individual students to decide whether they wanted to remain in Hong Kong or return to Dublin. 

“We have been in weekly contact with students due to ongoing developments and are continuing to monitor the situation closely,” a spokesperson said. 

“We are careful to respect the autonomy, independence and decision-making of each student, and have written to ask that they carefully consider the situation and advise if they would like to stay or return. 

“We are continuing to receive and review these responses and are working with the academic departments and universities to facilitate whatever decision is made.”

Maynooth University said it does not currently have any students studying abroad in Hong Kong.

In August, protesters stormed Hong Kong international airport, preventing hundreds of flights from taking off and closing the airport for days. 

Last week a man was shot in the abdomen during a face off with police, while another man, believed to have been defending China, was set alight by protesters. 

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