Singapore—After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) advised Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travel to Hong Kong on August 16, the country’s three biggest public universities, the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Singapore Management University (SMU) have temporarily postponed student exchange programmes.
Students from the three institutions have been receiving emails, with the advisory from the MFA attached or cited.
NUS wrote to its students saying it was told by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to defer such programmes in Hong Kong for the current academic period.
As for students from NTU, they were told via email that “all exchanges and trips to Hong Kong will be suspended with immediate effect until further notice,” as reported by news outfit TODAY Online.
The MFA announcement on August 16 read, “There have been large-scale protests taking place across Hong Kong since June 2019 which have become increasingly unpredictable. These protests can take place with little or no notice and could turn violent.
Recent protests also affected the Hong Kong International Airport, leading to the cancellation of many flights on 12 and 13 August and leaving many travellers stranded at the airport.
Singaporeans are thus advised to defer non-essential travel to Hong Kong, given current developments.”
Hong Kong has been racked by escalating demonstrations for the past few months, but it was in June that the situation intensified, when millions of people took to the streets to protest an extradition bill that would forcibly transfer fugitives to other areas that would sign an agreement treaty, including mainland China.
While the bill has since been put aside, now demonstrators have been protesting against increased police brutality, as well as are clamoring for democracy and free elections.
Protestors have waged sit-ins at the Hong Kong International Airport since last weekend, managing to shut the airport down, cutting off all flights in and out of the city on Monday, August 12.
The violence has been tamped down somewhat in the last few days, although crowds are still coming out to join the protests, with an estimated 1.7 million people joining the demonstration that occurred on Sunday, August 18, despite the pouring rain.
But the protests seem to have taken on a more peaceful tone, and police have not needed to use tear gas since Friday, August 16.
Protestors say that returning to more peaceful types of demonstrations means they are listening to what the city’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam has asked for.
Ms Lam expressed the hope that the peaceful rallies are a sign of a return to normalcy, “I sincerely hope this is the start of society returning to calm and turning away from violence.”
She announced that she is going to “immediately” establish a platform where citizens can dialogue with her in order to air their complaints about the police and their increasing use of violent means to quell the protestors.
Ms Lam said, “Work will start immediately to build a platform of dialogue. We hope this dialogue can be built upon a basis of mutual understanding and respect to find a way out for Hong Kong.” -/TISG