HOLY Trinity Lutheran College says it is monitoring the political unrest in Hong Kong, but has not made any decisions about changing its exchange program to the country.
In July, the Chinese Communist Party, which governs mainland China, implemented sweeping national security legislation in Hong Kong. This punishes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
In response, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australia will consider giving safe haven to Hong Kong nationals under threat from the new laws. The website smartraveller.com.au is warning Australians could be at risk of "arbitrary detention" if they travel to China, and says Chinese authorities have detained foreigners believed to be endangering national security.
Hong Kong has its own economic and administrative systems separate to China, under a 50-year arrangement known as "One country, two systems" that the UK set up when it handed Hong Kong, which had been its colony, back to China. The arrangement is set to expire in 2047.
Each year since 2007, 14 Year 6 HTLC students participate in a cultural exchange with students from two Lutheran Schools in Hong Kong.
At the beginning of term 1, students and their families host students from Hong Kong for a week. Later in the term the favor is returned when HTLC students travel to Hong Kong for 10 days, attending classes and experiencing the sights of Hong Kong.
Principal Daniel Weller said he was having conversations with the schools.
"These conversations are around the wellbeing and safety of students, not the politics, but given the political unrest in Hong Kong we are on a wait and see pattern at the moment," he said.
"We haven't had conversation around how that might impact our visits yet. Everything's on hold and I'm assuming given the current conversation around international travel not occurring until next year, our exchange program or our relation may need to look a little different for the next 12 to 18 months, particularly around how we continue to engage and be global citizens with another lutheran school in Hong Kong."
Mr Weller said the school would ultimately take Hong Kong's political environment into account when it did make a long-term decision about the exchange program.
"We are in the business of education and not politics, but in saying that we want to ensure our students are safe regardless of what they do," he said. "Any trips we do in future years will be guided by the same policy."
Professor Baogang He is a Deakin University Professor and Personal Chair in International Relations.
He said he expected student exchanges to Hong Kong would continue after international travel restrictions lifted, but what Australian students learned while there could be different.
"In the next few years, we will see China tighten up its education sector, and reintroduce patriotic education in Hong Kong," he said.
"Beijing is calling it a second reunification, because it believes the education system is largely still colonial in mentality, particularly in primary and middle school. How far it can implement its policy we don't know - there is strong resistance in Hong Kong society - but definitely in the next few years that will be on Beijing's agenda, and that will have implications for exchange programs.
"In the past, students have been exposed to a global citizenship education program (in Hong Kong) but if they went there in the next two years, they could be exposed to different kinds of things."
Professor He encouraged students and residents alike to educate themselves on the history of Hong Kong to understand the current tensions better.
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