Sheffield University has issued advice to its students to leave urgently as the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong increase.

In an email sent to the 15 students on exchange in the region, the university advised students to make arrangements with their unis to return to the UK.

Kathryn Walsh, 22, is on exchange at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, she said: “To go from a completely normal Sunday in the library to people making petrol bombs in gas masks at 11 am outside your politics building on Tuesday morning is just quite a crazy thing.

“[The University of Sheffield] just said to get off campus, so I don’t have to leave in principle. I have a years worth of stuff I would need to find a home for and it’s quite a mad time to try and plan a long trip just on the fly.

“Most people are only here for one semester, but people like me doing the whole year are so keen to come back. Everyone I speak to it’s their main concern.


Protestors have placed bricks in the road to stop police driving down them

Kathryn has had five weeks of lectures cancelled due to the protests but says she does not fear for her safety.

“I don’t think many people are scared of the violence exactly, the mainland Chinese students absolutely are, but the Europeans and Americans I think are largely fine. However, my two closest mainland Chinese friends were too scared to leave their rooms.

“The white skin, being visibly uninvolved in the conflict certainly feels like a huge protection.

“The protesters are so nice to all the exchange students – carrying our bags over the barricade on our way out, offering lifts.”

A CCTV camera blocked with a menstrual pad

Matt Jackson, 22, Urban Design & Planning student studying in Hong Kong echoed Kathryn’s sentiments.

Matt said: “Sheffield Uni sent me an email advising me to come home, but I am staying here until the 22nd December. I probably won’t be here in semester two.

“I live next to a police station, so there will be head to heads between protestors quite often. There’s a lot of tear gas and its back and forth quite a lot.

“Some of my friends from universities in other countries are being forced to leave. I think if more British universities start pulling their students out, its a possibility Sheffield might do the same”, he said.

Gas canisters found at The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Like Kathryn, Matt says he does not fear for his safety.

He said: “I do feel safe. You know not to get involved, it’s quite surreal really. The protestors won’t go near you if you are a Western person.”

The protests began in June over plans that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. Those plans were later scrapped but have since spanned into demands for more democratic freedom.

Additional words by Ben Watts