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All eight University of Victoria students that were on exchange terms in Hong Kong have returned home, according to a statement from UVic.

Carolyn Russell, the university’s director of the Office of Global Engagement, states that the three institutions in Hong Kong attended by UVic students – Hong Kong University, City University of Hong Kong, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong – have closed for the rest of the semester amid rising geopolitical and civil unrest.

Those who were planning to study in Hong Kong during the January – April semester are also now discussing alternative options with university staff.

“The safety of students is our first priority at the University of Victoria. We always advise our students to exercise due caution, stay alert, be aware of their surroundings and trust their instincts to remain safe while abroad,” said Russell.

“We also suggest they enrol in International SOS to receive travel alerts, enrol in the Registry of Canadians Abroad and to follow the Embassy of Canada to China or Consulate General of Canada, Hong Kong, on social media.”

University of British Columbia has also cancelled their second term exchange program with Hong Kong universities, as they work to bring current students back to Canada.

Post-secondary campuses decided to shut down after Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus became the latest battleground for clashes between anti-government protesters and authorities.

Over 150 people were arrested at PolyU in the most recent surge of protests against mainland China’s control over the former British colony.

Violent unrest has been the norm in Hong Kong for the past five months, and was sparked by a proposed bill that would allow suspects in the semi-autonomous city to be extradited to mainland China for trial.

Although this bill was withdrawn, the protests in Hong Kong continued as opponents’ demands evolved into a call for fully democratic elections, and an investigation into alleged police brutality in suppressing the protests.