Chinese, other students flee Hong Kong as violence worsens

A student pushes his luggage past pro-democracy protesters as he leaves the Chinese University of Hong Kong following a clash in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Chinese, other students flee Hong Kong as violence worsens

  • Students have said that they are being targeted by protesters who have broken into their dormitories, spray-painted insults on walls and banged on their doors
  • Many subway stations were closed, and university classes remained suspended

HONG KONG: University students from mainland China and Taiwan are fleeing Hong Kong, while those from two Scandinavian countries have been moved or urged to leave as college campuses become the latest battleground in the city’s 5-month-long anti-government unrest.
Marine police used a boat Wednesday to help a group of mainland students leave the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which remained barricaded by demonstrators after violent clashes with police on Tuesday.
Authorities announced that primary and secondary school classes would be suspended Thursday as clashes turn increasingly violent.
The protests have taken on a strong anti-China bent, with radical demonstrators trashing branches of mainland banks, China’s official Xinhua News Agency and restaurant chains whose owners support the Beijing government.
Hong Kong is part of China but has its own legal system and greater freedoms than the mainland. The protesters say those freedoms are under threat from a city government that is beholden to Beijing. China says the protesters are rioters who want to break away from Chinese rule.
For the third day in a row, protesters widely disrupted train service, blocked streets and rallied in the central business district. They hunkered down for possible clashes with police at university campuses.
The Technical University of Denmark urged 36 students in Hong Kong to return home, saying “some of our students have been forced to move from their dormitories because they were put on fire.”
Norwegian student Elina Neverdal Hjoennevaag told her country’s broadcaster NRK that students are being sent to a hotel, adding, “I don’t really know what is happening. I must pack.”
Mainland students have said in online posts that they are being targeted by protesters who have broken into their dormitories, spray-painted insults on walls and banged on their doors, the Beijing Evening News reported.
Many are taking advantage of a program that offers a week of free accommodation in one of a dozen hotels and hostels in the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen, Chinese media reported.
The service was established in 2013 for recent graduates looking for jobs in the tech hub.
Taiwan arranged flight tickets for 126 of its students at Chinese University to fly home Wednesday night, public broadcaster RTHK reported.
Many subway and rail stations were closed after protesters threw debris on tracks and vandalized train cars. University classes remained suspended.
Hong Kong Baptist University told students that instruction and exams would be conducted online for the two remaining weeks of the semester, with arrangements for students who have returned to the mainland to join in.
The Education Bureau suspended classes at primary and secondary schools for safety reasons. Describing the situation as outrageous, the bureau said students should stay at home “and must not participate in any unlawful activities.”
Many of the masked protesters are thought to be high school and university students. Of the more than 4,000 people arrested since the protests began, nearly 40% are students, police said.
Police subdued a few protesters as a crowd gathered for a third straight day in a central business and high-end retail district, RTHK reported. Office workers watched from the sidewalks.
Many students at Chinese University on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis were armed with gasoline bombs while some carried bows and arrows.
“We are afraid the police will come to attack our home and our school, and we have to protect our home and our school,” said one student, who gave his name as X Chan.
The clashes at the campus Tuesday were particularly intense. Police said protesters threw more than 400 gasoline bombs, more than on any other day in the protests.
Police fired 1,567 tear gas canisters, 1,312 rubber bullets and 380 beanbag rounds throughout Hong Kong on Tuesday. A total of 142 people were arrested and 10 people were taken to hospitals with injuries.
Security Secretary John Lee said the use of force at Chinese University was needed because protesters were dropping objects onto a roadway below.
“The police have a duty to ensure that this public safety is maintained,” he told reporters. “That is why they had to ensure that they would take charge of this bridge, which previously was occupied by the mobsters.”
The university’s student union president, Jacky So, appealed for an injunction from the High Court to ban police from entering the campus without a warrant or the school’s approval.
The injunction would also block police from using crowd control weapons, such as tear gas and rubber bullets, at the university.
Religious leaders called on both police and protesters to show restraint: “At this very critical point, the people of Hong Kong must unite and say no to violence,” the heads of Hong Kong’s six major religious groups said in a statement.
The Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong said the semi-autonomous territory is “slipping into the abyss of terrorism.” It called the setting of a man on fire an act of “flagrant terrorism.”
On Monday, a police officer drew his gun during a struggle with protesters, shooting one in the abdomen. In another neighborhood, a 57-year-old man who was defending China was set on fire after an apparent argument.
The man remained in critical condition Wednesday, and the protester was in serious condition, the Hospital Authority said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said members of the US Senate should stop trying to promote bills on human rights or democracy in Hong Kong.
“I want to reiterate that Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong. Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and cannot be interfered by any external forces,” he said at a daily briefing.
The movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Activists saw it as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a “one nation, two systems” principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 12 min 48 sec ago

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”