Since June of 2019, there have been relentless protests in Hong Kong. Numerous universities, including the University of Edinburgh, have called back students studying there amidst growing safety concerns.
The protests originated as a result of opposition to a law that would have allowed extradition to China, titled the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation.
Hong Kong is termed an S.A.R. (Special Administrative Region), meaning that for legal and official purposes the state is a part of the People’s Republic of China. In 1997 the British Empire transferred sovereignty of Hong Kong to China.
However, under the “One Country, Two Systems” doctrine it clearly stipulated that the socialist system of China would not be integrated in Hong Kong, meaning that Hong Kong would maintain completely independent political and economic systems.
For all intents and purposes, apart from military defense and foreign affairs, Hong Kong behaves as its own self-governing state. However when it comes to economics, the two often work in unison.
Hong Kong is one of the financial centres of the World, and also has one of the largest free markets in the world. This political and economic autonomy proves incredibly useful for many Chinese corporations.
The Hong Kong economy is based primarily in financial services, which is beneficial as Chinese and International corporations can often find common ground in this hub of activity. Furthermore, these freedoms issued in the Hong Kong Basic law expire in 2047, and that uncertainty is at the forefront of many protesters’ minds.
The relationship between the S.A.R. and China has always been strained, with said strain becoming more prominent over the last five months.
Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, has since withdrawn the contentious extradition bill, yet the protests still persist. The agenda now encompasses advocacy for human rights reform, and more autonomy for the S.A.R.
The movement now has four demands: amnesty for those arrested, an inquiry into police actions, for the protests not to be labelled a “riot”, and the implementation of absolute suffrage. A fifth demand was the withdrawal of the extradition bill, which has now been met.
“You are on the edge of doom,” was a warning issued by the State to the protesters. Yet it seems that many of the residents of Hong Kong are currently experiencing this doom.
On Wednesday the 13th, 67 people were treated with injuries related to the protests. Among those injured were a 70 year old man attempting to clean up the wreckage, a 15 year old boy struck in the head by a tear-gas canister, and an 18 year old student shot in the chest.
Last Thursday, November the 14th, riot police fired more than 1,567 canisters of tear gas during a chaotic clearance operation near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon.
Despite the fact that the F.C.O. (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has not issued any advice suggesting students should return to the UK, the choice of repatriation is up to the discrepancy of each individual institution.
Many British universities have now called for students to return home if studying in Hong Kong. Warwick, Nottingham, Aberdeen, Southampton, Sheffield and Edinburgh have all confirmed that they are bringing students back, and many more universities are in the process of deliberating.
Classes at the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus have even been suspended for the remainder of the semester. Many UK universities are offering reimbursements for the last minute air-travel costs.
As reported by The Independent, the University of Edinburgh is calling for 21 students to return, all of whom were meant to remain until spring. These students were told in an email that the school must “prioritise safety and wellbeing” at this time.
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