Hong Kong wants students to study in mainland China, worrying Umbrella Revolution protesters

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It's been six months since student protests rocked Hong Kong, and most demonstrators have returned to their routines of school and work. But now the young people who took to the streets demanding China allow open elections worry they could face new reprisals for participating in the Umbrella Revolution.


The University of Hong Kong (HKU), one of the island's top schools, recently announced it wants all of its students to spend time studying in mainland China. But some of the students who protested last year have been denied entry to the mainland.

"If you don't agree with the policy, then please don't come to HKU," the university's vice president reportedly told students.


While the vice president, Professor Ian Holliday, later walked back that statement and reportedly told students those who have been barred would be exempt, several students told the South China Morning Post they have reservations about the plan.

"I don't know if there's a hidden political agenda," Marcus Lau Yee-ching, a first-year journalism student, told the paper.

“Why make it compulsory? ” HKU student union leader Billy Fung Jing-en said.

The specifics of the study abroad policy, including whether the university will formally mandate that students participate, remain unclear and it is not set to be fully introduced until 2022.


The island's other top universities - Chinese University and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology - told the South China Morning Post they do not plan to mandate study abroad programs.

Last year, thousands of Hong Kong students garnered worldwide attention when they staged a months-long protest demanding the Chinese government allow Hong Kong's voters to select the candidates who will run for chief executive in 2017. What started as peaceful sit-ins turned violent when police used pepper spray and tear gas to break up crowds. Students who were caught on camera protesting have been denied entry into mainland China with border guards reportedly citing national security concerns.


While the police dismantled protest sites and protesters returned to school in December, many students said the lack of compromise eroded their trust in government and vowed to continue to fight for reform.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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