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University student from Faversham caught up in Hong Kong protests

An exchange student from Faversham has shunned advice to fly home from Hong Kong after her university campus was destroyed as part of ongoing protests in the city.

Former Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School pupil Poppy Cleary wants to "stick it out" and stay despite her semester at City University in China being cancelled amid chaos caused by demonstrations.

Poppy has been speaking about her experiences in Hong Kong

Sit-ins and rallies have have become a regular feature of life as part of ongoing unrest triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong government.

Miss Cleary, who is on a year-long exchange from the University of Liverpool, flew out to the city in August.

But things took a turn for the worse last week when the 20-year-old awoke to find her campus had been taken over as a "protest base" - prompting many of her friends and fellow students to pack up and fly home.

“It’s just shocking how quickly it’s all escalated,” the third-year law student said.

Bricks have been ripped up from pavements during protests
Bricks have been ripped up from pavements during protests

“They barricaded all of the exits, pulled down vending machines and gym equipment, and pulled up bricks from the pavements.

"They even turned each hall of the student residence into a different station.

“One was petrol bomb-making, one was first aid, one was food, and one was clothes.

“Within four days, enough damage had taken place and the protests had turned so extreme and violent that the rest of the semester has had to be cancelled.

“The biggest thing is that there are clouds of tear gas everywhere.

"When the police do arrive, they are all kitted up in riot gear, with their tear gas cannisters ready to shoot.

“It’s so intimidating. The conflict is insane.

"There are so many people getting hurt now as well which I think is something that has escalated really quickly.

Peaceful sit-ins in the mall next door to Poppy's university
Peaceful sit-ins in the mall next door to Poppy's university

“It is quite surreal. I didn’t expect it to escalate this much.

"I don’t think anyone expected it to escalate this much, otherwise as students we wouldn’t have been allowed to come here in the first place.

“When I arrived here the protests had started but they were all very peaceful.”

Miss Cleary says despite the University of Liverpool urging her to fly home, she is determined to stay in the city - but admits she will leave if troubles increase.

Graffiti from around Hong Kong
Graffiti from around Hong Kong

“Luckily I live in an area that isn’t a direct conflict zone,” she added.

“I feel fine, and that’s why I’m still here.

“I feel safe where I live, which is why I’ve decided to stay.

"But for most students it has been too much, and if they haven’t been called back by their universities, they’ve decided to leave themselves.

“As a foreigner and a young girl I think it is easier for us because if we are caught in an area of conflict it’s more obvious that we're not a protester and we are less likely to be harmed if in that situation.

“It’s really sad to see not only people having to leave but also what has happened and how the authorities are treating their own citizens.”

Hear more of our chat with Poppy in today's news podcast

Read more: All the latest news from Faversham


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