Semester Abroad Ends with Chinese Intervention

By Andrew Fancher

In June of 2019, widespread protests were commenced in the streets of Hong Kong. The anti-government movement was triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders bill. If passed, the extradition law would have undermined Hong Kong's autonomy and given the People's Republic of China authority to extradite beyond its jurisdiction.

Two months into the primarily peaceful moment, Nancy Pham — a North Texas resident — commenced a semester abroad at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). She was scheduled to stay at CUHK for nearly four months but was forced to evacuate because "the protests on campus got too violent."

One month into Pham's senior year, the People's Republic of China invoked colonial-era powers that incited violent protests between Hong Kong people and the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF). The streets became a war zone, addled with tear gas, rubber bullets, and occasional live ammunition.

"I wasn't scared of the protestors themselves. I was just scared of where the protests could go. I was pretty cautions my entire semester…. I also didn't want my views to stop them [Hong Kong people] from a problem that didn't affect me," said Pham.

On November 11, student protesters barricaded and commandeered the CUHK. In response, the riot-ready HKPF stormed the location with tear gas while the protesters fought back with incendiary bombs.

"This whole week, classes were canceled because faculty couldn't get on, and there was just too much unrest. The protestors took over my campus and seeing that was like, wow, this [movement] is important."

During the three-day siege of CUHK, Pham and fellow exchange students were guided off-campus by protestors. Within the month, Pham was back in the United States. For her time abroad, she received full credit and graduated with a bachelor's in marketing the following semester.