Mainland students flee Hong Kong, fear radical campus riots

Students in the campus of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on Tuesday.

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 Chinese mainland students studying at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) found a black curtain of terror hung over them on Friday amid the death of one of their schoolmates, with many who called Friday “evacuation day” leaving school out of safety concerns following escalating violence by black-clad mobs on campus.

Several mainland students from HKUST posted on social media Friday that “We should all flee as the university has fallen into the hands of black-clad protesters,” “Students of the HKUST are on the run, it‘s evacuation day!” Some said they have already returned to the mainland. 

After the HKUST president announced during Friday morning‘s graduation ceremony the death of the student who fell from a car park, a large number of black-clad rioters, some university students and some from outside the school, vandalized university property including a cafeteria, smashed faculty members‘ offices, sprayed paint and pasted slogans smearing the police.  

A mainland student and visiting scholar at the university‘s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering surnamed Zhang told the Global Times on Friday that he went back to his apartment from the university after the university emergency broadcast announced the cancellation of afternoon classes and the graduation ceremony. 

HKUST also sent an email marked “urgent” to all students and faculty members to “take care and be safe.”

Another mainland student of the university who requested anonymity told the Global Times that many mainland teachers and students fled to Shenzhen or Guangzhou this weekend, and those who didn‘t stayed in groups in dorms or labs. 

A mainland teacher said he hopes police could be stationed in the university not just to protect mainland faculty members and students but also to prevent the possible explosion of highly toxic chemicals. 

The university seemed to become a protest headquarters this week, as an increasing number of black-clad mobs engaged in violence, with some targeting students from the mainland, Zhang said. 

Friday‘s riots came just two days after a Chinese mainland student of the university, falsely accused of pushing a masked protester, was beaten and attacked by a crowd during a dialogue between HKUST president Wei Shyy and students. 

On Monday evening, a group of black-clad HKUST students gathered in the campus in the name of supporting the fallen student. They illegally detained the university president for six hours and falsely accused a teacher from the mainland of sexually harassing them.

A Hong Kong teacher surnamed Mu said that local universities have become a hotbed for extremism which is also extending to primary and middle schools. He blamed schools for tolerating such situations. 

The escalating violence at Hong Kong campuses put academic freedom at risk and forced mainland students to rethink their study plans and future career choices. Zhang said some mainland students like him no longer consider staying in Hong Kong for work after graduating, after witnessing worsening riots in the past months. 

Zhao Yusha contributed to this story

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