‘It’s hard to maintain a normal lifestyle,’ says Warwick student still in Hong Kong

They told the Tab about their experiences as an exchange student in Hong Kong

Last week, the University of Warwick called back all exchange students studying in Hong Kong out of concern for their safety. The University said, due to the recent protests taking place in Hong Kong, "it was no longer appropriate for our students to remain."

The University of Warwick instructed students to return to the UK as soon as they were able. A spokesperson from the University told The Warwick Tab "many Universities in Hong Kong have suspended their operations due to the developing situation there."

The Warwick Tab spoke to a third year exchange Law student who was studying at the University of Hong Kong at the time of the protests.

Image may contain: Wood, Wall, Text, Room, Indoors, Interior Design

A photograph taken by the exchange student of a piece of protest art on the Hong Kong University campus

What has it been like to study in Hong Kong during this time of protest?

It's been the same old, actually. The only difference was when things started getting more intense. Some of my classes were cancelled. Late October, November time, studying towards that period became more hectic. It was fine during September but then it became more difficult to maintain a normal lifestyle.

How close did the protests feel to your everyday life?

My accommodation was the furthest away from campus so I wasn't exposed that much compared to some other people. Sometimes some events would happen near the Halls so, in terms of everyday proximity to the protests, unless I went to these areas by myself I wouldn't be exposed to them naturally.

The only time that I actually experienced a protest was one time when I first arrived in Hong Kong. I went to Mong Kok to go sightseeing.

Image may contain: Painting, Mural, Clothing, Footwear, Apparel, Shoe, Art, Brick, Graffiti, Wall, Person, Human

A photograph taken by the exchange student of a piece of protest

When you went sightseeing after you first arrived in Hong Kong, what did you end up seeing?

I first arrived around August so the protest movement was mainly focused on withdrawing the bill. I saw protesters dancing in the dark with flashlight on. Because I saw the news I already knew about the protests.

One night we found out that the police had killed someone. I think they fired either tear gas or water cannons at some of the protesters.

Were there any points during your stay, towards October/November, where you got worried that things might get more out of control?

I think the first instance where I was really worried was the day they announced the ban for the face masks. I could feel that, even though nothing physically had happened, any conflicts or confrontations, I felt a sense of foreboding.

Were you told or encouraged to come back to the UK and how did you feel once you got that message?

I got the email from Warwick last Wednesday and it was worded like a strong recommendation in comparison to what my other exchange friends got from their other universities which explicitly stated they had to come back. I think today or recently I got a follow up from the University that said its a priority for Warwick students to come back, so I think it sounds more like it's compulsory for the emails they are sending out now.

I guess I felt kind of conflicted when I got the email, as I was still undecided whether I wanted to come back or stay.

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