A Scottish university has ordered students on exchange programmes in Hong Kong to return home immediately amid rising civil unrest.

The University of Edinburgh said it took the decision to over 20 of those studying in the city after campuses became ‘battlegrounds’ for clashes between students and police.

It comes after student Alex Chow was killed when he fell from a parking garage as state police attempted to disperse protesters demonstrating against the government.

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The university has a partnership with a number of institutions across Asia, including Hong Kong University (HKU), allowing students to continue or further their studies abroad.

However, in an email sent to students on Thursday, the institution insisted students were to return to the UK “immediately” after HKU cancelled all classes for the remainder of the term.

An email sent to students reads: “You will have received correspondence from HKU that they are suspending classes for the rest of the semester. 

“As a result, the University of Edinburgh requires you to make arrangements for your immediate return to the UK.

“I understand that a number of you will be disappointed not to be able to continue at the University of Hong Kong, but I hope you can understand we have to prioritise your safety and wellbeing.”

Protests have gripped Hong Kong since June against plans to allow extradition to the mainland - which many feared would erode the city's freedoms.

Hong Kong is part of China, but as a former British colony it has some autonomy and people have more rights.

While the extradition plans were withdrawn in September, the demonstrations have continued, with protesters calling for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, and democratic reform.

A statement posted on the HKU website said: “In view of the uncertain and unsafe traffic conditions for travelling to HKU, we are suspending classes on the Main Campus for the rest of the semester and making teaching and learning accessible online.”

“This will enable students to stay away from campus, and even leave Hong Kong should they wish, while at the same time completing their courses and assessments.

“Examinations will be moved online or replaced by alternative forms of assessment. Details will be circulated in the next few days.”

It continued: “For help with travel arrangements out of Hong Kong, non-local students are advised to contact either the China Affairs Office or the International Affairs Office.”

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The University of Aberdeen also recalled students from the city on Thursday.

A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said: “The suspension of classes at educational institutions in Hong Kong has affected 21 Edinburgh students, who are currently on exchange there."

"We are therefore requesting that all of our students in Hong Kong return to the UK, at their earliest opportunity."

He added: "We are providing advice and support to each affected student to ensure all are in a position to return to the UK.”