Student group Ryerson Stand With Hong Kong wants to see more action taken from Ryerson University in response to the escalating protests, says group member Hyunjin Cho.
The group was founded during this past summer, and its initial goal was to spread awareness for the protests that began in June of this year.
The protests began when China planned to pass a bill allowing Hong Kong prisoners to be extradited to mainland China.
While the extradition bill has since been withdrawn, the protests continue as Hong Kong demands a full democracy.
Ryerson Stand With Hong Kong’s strategy quickly pivoted in recent weeks when the violence taking place in Hong Kong intensified.
“Police brutality is escalating, and specifically attacking universities in Hong Kong,” Cho said. “A lot of protesters are teenagers or in their early twenties, and that is why the police are attacking universities.”
University campuses in the region have been contentious battlegrounds in clashes between protesters and police, with many student protesters being arrested.
Three of the universities that are undergoing violence have partnerships with Ryerson – City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Hong Kong Baptist University.
Ryerson has not yet issued an official statement regarding the protests.
“They send exchange students to each other, and we believe that Ryerson needs to ensure the safety of exchange students.” Cho said.
While there are not currently any Ryerson students on exchange in Hong Kong, there are many who were planning to go next semester that will be held back.
There are also many current Ryerson students who come from Hong Kong, and Cho said they are dealing with serious trauma and mental health issues.
Ryerson Stand With Hong Kong has around 20 members, and Cho is the only non-Hong Konger – she hails from Korea.
The other members aren’t always able to safely discuss the events, for fear of them or their families being singled out.
“They have friends and family back in Hong Kong, who go to the universities that are under attack,” Cho said. “They are always worried about what’s going on with their friends, they want to make sure their friends are safe.”
This has lead to a number of mental health crises according to Cho.
Ryerson’s School of Social Work is willing to help form a support group for students from Hong Kong dealing with these issues, but Cho wants to see more from Ryerson as a whole.
“Egerton Ryerson was one of the founders of residential schools, so Ryerson has a responsibility in colonial issues,” said Cho.
Hong Kong’s colonial history is ever present in the protests, and issues like language have been under scrutiny during Chinese control of the region.
“What’s going on in Hong Kong is also a colonial issue,” said Cho. “What China is doing to Hong Kong is very similar to what the Canadian government has done to Indiginous people.”
Ryerson Stand With Hong Kong wants to see an official statement from the university condemning the police violence in the region, while the protests and violence continue.