After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a travel advisory to all Singaporeans to defer any non-essential travel to Hong Kong last week, three major universities in the country have now decided to stop the student exchange programmes with their Hong Kong counterparts.
It is said that students at National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) received email informing them of this decision, and the MFA advisory was attached or highlighted in the notice.
Based on the email sent to the students, NUS noted that it was “informed by the Ministry of Education” to hold its exchange programme to Hong Kong this semester. In addition, NTU students also got a similar email stating that “all exchange and trips to Hong Kong will be suspended with effect until further notice”.
It was reported earlier that NUS and NTU pointed out that a number of their students refused to go to Hong Kong for the exchange programme last week, however no students from SMU withdrew their trips despite the unrest in the city.
Upon reading this, TODAY said that it sparked a lot of responses from their readers who stressed that the Ministry of Education and universities should cease all exchange programmes to Hong Kong until the tensions settle.
For the last two months, there have been protests taking place in Hong against the Government, which have roiled the city and shows no signs of slowing down.
It all started as peaceful demonstration to oppose the controversial Extradition Bill, and even though the bill was later suspended indefinitely, but protests went on as people want greater democracy and political reforms.
The protests which saw clashes between protestors and the police recently went from bad to worse following fears of a crackdown by Chinese authorities.
A few affected students told TODAY that their biggest concern about the cancellation is how they are going to continue their studies during the semester on campus.
Mr Tham, a third-year student majoring in chemical engineering at NUS said, “We are trying to appeal to take our modules this semester and this is worrying because most of the slots are taken up by students who have bid for them”.
On the other hand, SMU undergraduate Jolene Tan mentioned that she is yet to receive her class schedule and course readings, but the semester has already started.
“Some classes are already full, but they told us to just attend them anyway while they try to slot us into whatever classes that are available,” she explained.
After reading the decision made by these three universities, many netizens wrote in TODAY’s Facebook page saying that they agree with the move and highlighted that the students safety should always be the priority.
In fact, Keynes Smith called for a permanent ban as Singaporean students will definitely not want to study in Hong Kong anymore.
However, a small number of online users said that the universities “overreacted” and “students are adults and can assess the situation on their own and make their own decisions” without the need of government’s interference.