International students have begun to evacuate from Hong Kong as more universities announced a premature end to the fall term amid protester turmoil on campuses.

The South Korean consulate in Hong Kong escorted over 40 students out of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on Wednesday – 30 of whom went directly to the airport to fly home, according to RTHK. On Tuesday, around 50 South Korean students at CUHK also returned to their home country, the broadcaster reported.

CUHK Chinese University of Hong Kong "November 12" protest
The Chinese University of Hong Kong on November 12, 2019. Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

The news came after fierce clashes between police, students and protesters broke out on several university campuses on Monday and Tuesday, including at CUHK, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

A spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that its government had expressed concern about the situation in Hong Kong and is considering issuing a more severe travel warning for the city.

State-owned Central News Agency (CNA) reported that Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said on Wednesday that it expects 284 Taiwanese students in Hong Kong to return to the island on Wednesday and Thursday. It said it assisted 126 Taiwanese students studying at CUHK to board a China Airlines flight on Wednesday evening. There are 1,021 Taiwanese students studying at Hong Kong universities, according to the Council.

The National Taiwan University (NTU) also said on Thursday that it had advised its students on exchange in Hong Kong to return to Taiwan, while Taiwanese and other international students in Hong Kong were welcome to enrol at NTU as visiting students. It added that NTU was willing to assist its global partners in the United States, United Kingdom, France and elsewhere, to accept exchange students who were originally meant to head to Hong Kong.

CUHK Chinese University of Hong Kong protest PolyU
“CUHK, add oil.” Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

Some mainland Chinese students have sought shelter in hostels run by the Communist Youth League Shenzhen Committee in Shenzhen, Ming Pao reported. It wrote on the Twitter-like platform Weibo that mainland students in Hong Kong were welcome to take refuge in 12 of its hostels in the southern Chinese city for free for seven days.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong police sent a vessel to help Chinese students leave CUHK upon their request.

Magnus, an exchange student from Denmark at the City University of Hong Kong, told Apple Daily that many exchange students from his school had begun returning home, though he had no plan to leave yet. He said the Hong Kong government’s lack of communication with protesters had led to escalating tactics and, in contrast, Danish government officials would have communicated with citizens in person or responded to questions from the public through the media.

Meanwhile, Macau’s Higher Education Bureau said on Wednesday that it was “highly concerned” about the situation in Hong Kong and has advised all Macau students in the territory to be vigilant. It added that it has set up an emergency group with Macau student representatives in Hong Kong to obtain firsthand information.

Classes suspended for the fall term

Following CUHK’s announcement on Wednesday of a premature end to the fall term, HKU said on Thursday that classes will be suspended for the rest of the semester and that teaching, as well as assessments, will be conducted online. The school advised students to stay away from campus or leave the city if they wish.

CUHK No.2 bridge "November 13"
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, No.2 bridge, on November 13. Photo: Studio Incendo.

The City University of Hong Kong announced on Thursday that Friday will be the last day of the teaching period and that no classes – including those online – will take place. It said final examinations were cancelled and, instead, students will be asked to complete assignments.

The Hong Kong Baptist University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have also suspended classes for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, Lingnan University announced on Thursday that it will postpone a graduation ceremony originally scheduled for next Thursday.

Hong Kong has been shaken by 24 weeks of protests triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill which would have enabled fugitive transfers to mainland China. The movement has evolved into calls for democratic reform and accountability for the police handling of the crisis, as well as other demands.

Correction (November 15): The original version of this article stated that the National Taiwan University had asked its students on exchange in Hong Kong to return to Taiwan. The university had only advised its students to do so.

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