An exchange program that sends LMU students to the Chinese University of Hong Kong has been suspended for the upcoming semester.
The decision has been made in the midst of an increasingly volatile situation in Hong Kong. This past summer, pro-democracy protests began in Hong Kong against an extradition bill and more broadly, the partial power the Chinese Communist Party has over the semi-autonomous territory, according to The New York Times.
Lisa Loberg, the director of study abroad at LMU, said that the ongoing situation in Hong Kong is "of concern" and cited safety as the reason for pausing the program. Two students were going to attend the program this spring: Andrew Seaman, a sophomore computer science major, and Veronica Backer-Peral, a sophomore film and television production and history double major and Loyolan intern.
For months, civilian protesters in Hong Kong have faced violence from the police, while the protesters themselves have used increasingly extreme tactics. The tensions moved to Hong Kong’s universities on Nov. 11. At Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University, police stormed the campus and arrested protesters after they had rained molotov cocktails, arrows and petrol bombs down on the police, according to the Washington Post.
"I think everyone regardless of what side they’re on has been shocked by the violence from the protests. I don’t think anyone saw it spiraling this much out of control," said Zach Johnson, a junior international relations major from Hong Kong. "I know my high school canceled school because of the protests, and a lot of Western expat families are starting to leave Hong Kong out of [fear for their] safety."
At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, protesters formed barricades in order to stop police from entering the campus, according to CNN. Protestors threw petrol bombs and bricks while the police used tear gas and rubber bullets. This caused the University to cancel classes and end the semester two weeks early, according to CNN.
Seaman said that once he heard the news of the violence at the university, he brought his concern to the study abroad office. The decision was then made to suspend the program.
“[Seeing the news] I felt a little uneasy, but I felt like it wasn’t going to affect me. I felt like it wasn’t going to affect the campuses especially. It was a shock when it was on the actual campus I was going to be staying at,” said Seaman. He said that although he was excited for the program, the decision to suspend it was “logical.”
Seaman and Backer-Peral have now been forced to find last-minute plans for next semester. Neither will be studying abroad at another location, according to both Backer-Peral and Seaman.
Although the reasons are unrelated, this is the second study abroad program LMU has suspended or canceled this year. The Casa de la Mateada program in Argentina was canceled three weeks before students were supposed to depart for the program this semester, as previously reported by the Loyolan.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong will continue to be a partner institution to LMU, according to Loberg.