Scottish students told to return home from Hong Kong amid increased civil unrest

Scottish students participating in exchange programmes in Hong Kong have been told to come home amid increased civic unrest and protests.

Hong Kong has been rocked by months of civil unrest. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Hong Kong has been rocked by months of civil unrest. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

The University of Edinburgh, which currently has 21 students on exchange in Hong Kong, sent out an email on Thursday telling students to return to the UK with immediate effect.

It comes following the University of Hong Kong's decision to suspend all classes for the remainder of the year due to an increase in civil unrest and violent protests in recent days.

Anti-government protests have riven Hong Kong and divided its people for more than five months and has shown no signs of ending.

Protesters have torched vehicles and buildings, hurled petrol bombs at police stations and trains, dropped debris from bridges on to traffic and vandalised shopping malls and campuses.

On Thursday pro-democracy protesters paralysed parts of the city for a fourth consecutive day, forcing schools to close and blocking highways. Thousands of students built campus barricades at several universities, hunkering down with piles of food as well as bricks, catapults and other home-made weapons.

Police said the Chinese University of Hong Kong had become “a weapons factory and an arsenal”, and that arrows had been fired at officers from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. “Their acts are another step closer to terrorism,” said Chief Superintendent John Tse Chun-chung of the Police Public Relations Branch, adding that police would temporarily avoid clashing with “high-spirited rioters”.

Several universities have announced there would be no classes on campuses for the rest of the year.

In a statement, the University of Edinburgh said it was necessary to prioritise the "safety and wellbeing" of its foreign exchange students.

A spokeswoman from the University of Edinburgh said: "The suspension of classes at educational institutions in Hong Kong has affected 21 Edinburgh students, who are currently on exchange there.

"We are therefore requesting that all of our students in Hong Kong return to the UK, at their earliest opportunity.

"We are providing advice and support to each affected student to ensure all are in a position to return to the UK."

Four other UK universities, including Aberdeen University, have also sent out communications on Thursday telling students to return to the UK.