Angry and confused
Dorijn, who’s in the third year of the Management of International and Social Challenges (MISOC) programme, is on the phone from a hotel on the city’s outskirts. She doesn’t intend to return just yet. “I haven’t considered going home, although my plans have changed. This week, I’ll be leaving for the Philippines to round off my final assignments with two friends. On Saturday, my parents will be flying to Hong Kong to visit me and tour the city, but there’s a strong chance they’ll be coming to the Philippines too.”
Dorijn feels angry and confused about the current situation in Hong Kong. “What’s going on here is so unjust. The students have been demonstrating since June, but the authorities aren’t listening to them.” By now, the confrontations between the protesters and the police have spread from the city centre to university campuses.
Fideyla (21), another third-year MISOC student, used to study at one of these campuses, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). In contrast with Dorijn, she didn’t decide to stay on. Although originally, she would only return in late December, she has been home for two weeks now. “At first, the demonstrations were only over the weekend, but at a certain point, the students started protesting on week days too.” She says that she saw a lot of damage and that the underground was often out of service. “The CUHK is in an isolated location and can only be reached by taxi or bus. At a certain point, we even ran out of food and water. I remember thinking: ‘This isn’t an exchange anymore; this is trying to survive.’”
Fideyla and her roommate decided to bail. Before returning to the Netherlands, she first travelled through Thailand for three weeks. Although she’s happy about her decision to go home, she’s still very preoccupied with the situation in Hong Kong. “It still feels strange going to the supermarket without first checking on my phone whether it’s safe to go out. Particularly the first days after returning, I still expected to run into protests or see a situation develop at any time.”
Although her exchange didn’t turn out as planned, she has learnt several important lessons: “I’ve learned to decide for myself – for example, will I be joining the group or going out on my own? And I’ve learned to survive on nothing but dry noodles.”
‘Weird not to be there’
When we speak to Communication & Media student Wouter (23), he has just arrived at his hostel in Tokyo. “I’m happy to have a moment to relax a bit after all the commotion of the past few weeks.” Wouter took pictures during the demonstrations. “I saw live streams of the Polytechnic University, which is being besieged by the police, on social media. Some of my friends are taking photos there as we speak, so it feels weird not to be there with them.” His lectures have been cancelled for the remainder of the year. “That decision was met with disbelief – none of my fellow students saw it coming”, says Wouter.
“We don’t have any digital classes, and our final assignments have been adjusted. For example, I was supposed to make a short film together with several other students, but they’re all in different countries now. Instead of doing a group project, I’m now expected to make a video essay.” Wouter doesn’t have any reason to return to the Netherlands for the moment, since he’s still in the midst of recording everything that’s going on the city. “I’ve collected so much video material by now that I’m convinced I need to do something with it.” After his time in Tokyo, Wouter will be returning to Hong Kong, although he can’t say what the next few weeks will bring. “The situation is so chaotic that there’s no sense in making plans. I’m really living from one day to the next.”
In the midst of the Hong Kong protests
Wouter, a third-year student of Erasmus University on exchange at the CUHK, is inside the…