Mass exodus as fear grips overseas studentsTop News | Stella Wong 14 Nov 2019
Non-local students began a mass exodus from several universities, fearing for their safety as campuses exploded in violent clashes over the past three days.
The exodus starting on Tuesday comprised mostly mainland and Taiwan students together with five Filipino students from Chinese University.
University campuses have been turned into new battlefields, with CUHK seeing the worst clashes between riot police and student protesters on Tuesday.
Hundreds of rounds of tear gas were fired on the campus with the smoke billowing into student dormitories. Protesters threw petrol bombs.
Around 10am yesterday, marine police deployed a launch to evacuate dozens of mainland students from CUHK to safety.
A witness said the group of parents and students, who were speaking Putonghua, gathered at the Ma Liu Shui Ferry Pier near Chinese University. Police told students to board the vessel if they had mainland ID cards, saying only those with the document could take the boat.
Kong Wing-cheung, senior superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch, said at a press briefing: "The roads nearby were heavily obstructed as rioters placed miscellaneous objects.
"After receiving their [mainlanders'] request for assistance, we tried our best to help them to get to a safe place so that they could leave."
Kong said different police regions had been in close contacts with associations and networks of mainland students.
Among those evacuated was a PhD student from Xiamen. He decided to leave because multiple universities in the city had turned into centers of confrontation.
He said Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong and Shenzhen Research Institute both suggested mainland students leave the city.
Alumni groups and mainland students associations are arranging the evacuation.
He also said mainland students from different provinces could call different emergency numbers and buses would be arranged for them to go back home.
According to mainland media, alumni homes of Communist Youth League in Shenzhen are providing free accommodation to mainland students from Hong Kong.
A staff member in the Futian residence said he had received more than 80 applications from mainland students as of 10am yesterday.
Most were from Chinese University and City University who had decided to stay there temporarily as they felt scared.
Taiwan authorities assisted in evacuating a group of 85 Taiwanese students.
According to Taiwan's Ministry of Education, there are 1,021 Taiwanese students in Hong Kong, including about 300 at CUHK.
Due to the deteriorating situation, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong sent staff to CUHK and drove 85 Taiwanese students to the airport.
Five CUHK students from the Philippines said that Tuesday night's violence prompted them to evacuate as they lived in the student hall directly opposite Bridge No 2.
"For two days and nights, we assessed the situation, stocked up on food and prepared. We secured the hall from fumes, calmed other residents when the alarm broke out and coordinated with hall wardens for evacuation and transfer," a PhD student said.
But when they contacted the Philippine consulate to ask them if they could be transported, they were told to stay put.
When they told the consulate they had to catch a flight back to Manila, it was only then that two consular vans were dispatched late Tuesday night.
The students had to walk along Tolo Highway and take a cab before they could meet up with the vans.
South Korean students were also seen leaving the student dorm from Polytechnic University.
A South Korean student said the university told them that their exchange program had ended and they could return to their home country at any time.
Meanwhile, some local universities launched special academic arrangements for non-locals, including City University.
"For international or exchange students, option of early return to home countries will be provided.
"For mainland students, option of studying or preparing for their final exams at the CityU Shenzhen Research Institute will be provided," it said in a statement.
Relevant departments of the university will coordinate logistic arrangements, it added.