The University of Toronto has cancelled its Hong Kong Summer Abroad program for this summer, amidst growing protests, especially on university campuses. In the past month, there have been significant conflicts between police and protestors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
The university is also in contact with 20 students who are currently registered to study in Hong Kong.
“The safety of our students is a top priority,” wrote a university spokesperson in an email to The Varsity. “We have been carefully monitoring the situation in Hong Kong, and after much consideration, we have decided to cancel the summer abroad program in Hong Kong this year.” U of T is partnered with the Chinese University of Hong Kong for its Summer Abroad and exchange programs.
The situation escalated earlier last week when police stormed the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in a siege on protestors, leaving hundreds of people trapped inside for days. Students from universities all over the world have left the city as the conflict continues. Other universities across Canada, including the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of Calgary, have recommended that their exchange students vacate Hong Kong. UBC announced that 20 of its 31 students studying abroad in Hong Kong have left the city, and that more have plans to leave.
A university spokesperson wrote that “We have been in continual contact with registered U of T students in [Hong Kong] throughout the summer and fall,” noting that U of T has 20 students registered in Hong Kong. “We have worked with each student and their partner organization to ensure their safe transition back to U of T and the completion of their fall semester.”
Hogan Lam, an organizer with the U of T Hong Kong Extradition Law Awareness Group (UTHKELAG), expressed ambivalence about the cancellation. “To be honest, I don’t know whether it’s a good decision according to the current situation in Hong Kong right now,” said Lam. “I personally [think] it is a pity because I feel like learning in Hong Kong is so different from learning from any other places, because it’s a really unique city.”
UTHKELAG has also released an open letter asking the university to take action on the situation in Hong Kong, as part of its continued activism efforts, including a hunger strike and multiple sit-ins.
The letter’s demands include condemning the Hong Kong police force, assisting university members in Hong Kong, and contacting the Chinese University of Hong Kong to ensure measures are in place to stop conflicts from happening at the university in the future.