By Brendan Rose, Brian Ponte and Victoria Fennell
As the protests in Hong Kong become increasingly violent, Purchase College has decided to extract four dance majors studying abroad in the embattled city.
Junior dance majors, Lucy Quattlebaum, Emma Kempson, Catherine Brough, and Stephanie Godsave are in Hong Kong as part of Purchase’s international partnership with the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA).
“I’m fine personally,” said Godsave. “We aren't really sure of the complete plan yet, which is a bit chaotic.”
The State Department currently classifies Hong Kong as a level two travel advisory. Evacuation is mandated by SUNY policy at level three, meaning that the final decision to leave the country had to be made by the students.
“We basically came to the consensus that we would like to leave as soon as possible, but our show … is actually next weekend, which is when the election in Hong Kong is happening,” said Quattlebaum on Tuesday night. “So things are supposed to be really, really bad.”
Back at Purchase, plans were being finalized to extract the students on Friday.
“Now, the contingency—and the reason that we don't have it 100 percent confirmed at this point—is because we can't actually book the tickets at the times we think we want to,” said Anne Kern, dean for global strategy and international programs. “We have to hear from our Hong Kong partner that they believe that they can safely transport the students at that time.”
Originally scheduled to come home following the end of the semester on Dec. 21, the students and Purchase faculty reached a decision to leave the city after classes were canceled at HKAPA.
“The most important factor is safety. But related to that is the student's ability to complete their academic program,” said Kern. “So if classes are being canceled, and ultimately the performance is being canceled, there's no reason for them to be there anymore.”
The city of Hong Kong has been embroiled in ongoing protests since the spring, with weekly demonstrations erupting into violence which recently spread to college campuses.
“Catherine and I went to school on Monday morning for one class … but we were told to go home immediately at 10:30 because transportation and protests were supposed to escalate throughout the day,” said Quattlebaum. “So they were like, ‘go home, stay safe, stay indoors.’”
Schools have devolved into battlegrounds, with many of the city’s once-serene universities becoming flashpoints in the most recent protests.
“All the schools have been flooded, destroyed, set on fire,” said Kempson. “We have a lot of friends who were just leaving.”
Early Wednesday morning, the dancers watched from their window as protesters set fire to a store across a nearby park. As the building burned and tenants were evacuated, it became clear that the violence had reached their doorstep.
“I think everyone's gone crazy,” said Quattlebaum. “The police officers have gone crazy and the students have gone crazy.”