After violent clashes erupted on the streets of Hong Kong on the evening of Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Emerson College student supporters of the Hong Kong demonstrations held signs outside their campus dining hall to signal their support. A heated argument broke out when students from mainland China took issue with the protesters and confronted them.

Emerson senior Frances Hui, who is from Hong Kong and organized the on-campus protest, said she was driven to demonstrate by reports of a demonstrator being shot in the chest with live ammunition by the Hong Kong police. It was the first time the police used a live bullet on protesters.

Beneath the heated confrontation between the Emerson students lies a deeper schism: clashing perspectives about the Chinese government and its role in the world. And it's a fight many students from mainland China and Hong Kong enrolled at universities around the world are having on their own campuses.

“Standing out there is a way to offset my feeling of guilt because I'm not able to participate in the movement,” said Hui, who has organized more than 10 pro-Hong Kong demonstrations in Boston since June. “The only way that we can help is to raise awareness.”

But Beini Wang, an Emerson junior from Shanghai, China, said she was disturbed by her fellow students' protest on the Chinese holiday and, along with some friends, confronted them. An emotional exchange ensued between about 10 students, according to several first-person accounts of the incident, which drew a crowd of about 15 onlookers.

“It was our national day, so everyone was super happy and it was a big day for all of us,” said Wang, who is president of Emerson’s Chinese Student Association. “You're not going to be happy if someone tells you that your government and your country is a murderer.”

Hostilities between demonstrators and police have been escalating in Hong Kong since protests broke out in June. Sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill, the demonstrations have morphed into a large-scale social movement with protesters calling for wider political reforms in the semi-autonomous region of China.

What happened outside Emerson’s dining hall last week is similar to conflicts happening on campuses around the U.S. between students from mainland China, and their peers who support the protesters in Hong Kong. Similar confrontations have been reported at Yale University, Columbia University, and abroad in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

“[The two groups] understand the protests completely differently,” said Shen Lu, a New York-based freelance journalist who specializes in the Chinese diaspora and has written about Chinese students studying abroad for The New York Times and The Nation, among other publications. “Their news sources are different, and their identities are different.”

Shen said international media consumed by supporters of the Hong Kong protesters has largely portrayed the demonstrators as fighting righteously for self-determination, whereas Chinese media portrays the demonstrators as rioters who are stoking separatism.

Both Hui and Wang are journalism majors who say they think non-Chinese students on campus are largely ignorant about what’s happening in Hong Kong, and they want to share their perspective about what is happening.

Wang said she was in China when the protests first started and that she learned about them from reading articles and seeing videos on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. She says now that she’s in the U.S., she reads both Chinese media and Western media outlets, like The Washington Post and The New York Times.

“It's definitely a pretty different perspective,” Wang said of Western media outlets. “I'm questioning the media nowadays, on both sides.”

Shen said that from a young age, Chinese students are taught to believe that Western media is biased against China. When they come to study in the U.S., they are predisposed to be wary of criticism from Western news outlets, she said.

Wang said she knows Hui is from Hong Kong and understands why she is so passionate about the issue, but she still finds the overt criticism of China jarring and hurtful.

“You are disrespecting my country, and that's my culture and that's part of who I am,” said Wang. “As much as I'm really open minded, I still feel really uncomfortable to be confronted by others here.”

Wang said the use of the word "murder" by the on-campus protesters — some students were holding a sign that said "Hong Kong police is murdering us" — was the most upsetting part of last week’s demonstration. She wrote to the Emerson Office of International Affairs to ask them to tell Hui and her fellow protesters to stop using the word. She says she hasn’t heard back from school administrators.

Emerson College spokesperson Michelle Gaseau said in a statement that, "Emerson encourages self expression and engaged journalism among its community members, while also upholding high standards for civil and respectful discourse in this process. We will continue to do so with any protests on its campus."

Hui said she is sympathetic to mainland Chinese students. She said when she organizes demonstrations in Boston, she’s targeting the Chinese government, not Chinese people or the culture. But, she knows many take it personally.

"There’s a risk for [Chinese international students] to know too much about their country," said Hui. Many people, including students, are under surveillance on Chinese social media platforms by the Chinese government and could face retaliation for speaking about controversial topics, even through private messages.

“I wouldn't point in their face and say, 'Educate yourself on this,' because I know it's also difficult for them,” she said.

Hui said there are a number of reasons to be critical about China right now, including the government's treatment of Tibetans and Uighur people in Xinjiang.

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Shen said these issues and criticisms are mostly new to Chinese students.

“It's their first time abroad hearing criticisms of China,” Shen said. “Mainland Chinese students were not exposed to diverse ideas when they were in China. They were simply not taught to think critically of ethnic issues or what's happening in Hong Kong.”

But Shen says when it comes to the Hong Kong protests, battle lines are not neatly drawn. Most Chinese students studying abroad have complex feelings about politics in China and may not feel comfortable speaking publicly.

“I think it’s important to not make a sweeping generalization that Chinese students overseas are all against Hong Kong protests,” Shen said. “Quite a few Chinese students keep silent because of fear of retribution.”

Some mainland Chinese students studying internationally will wear masks at demonstrations supporting the Hong Kong protests in their host countries out of fear that other mainland Chinese students on campus will report them to the government.

Hui, who is from Hong Kong, said she assumes she is under scrutiny by the Chinese government due to her outspoken activism. She said she is planning on returning to Hong Kong to visit family in the coming months, but she wouldn’t feel safe crossing the border into mainland China for fear of political retribution.

Shen said that while confrontations like the one at Emerson get a lot of attention, there are likely many quieter conversations happening on campus where Chinese students from various backgrounds are learning from each other.

“Some people are sitting down and having conversations over bubble tea or Chinese food to talk about different views,” said Shen.

Both Hui and Wang say it’s unlikely they will ever see eye-to-eye on the Hong Kong issue. Hui is planning another protest at city hall this coming weekend, and is lobbying the Boston city government to raise the Hong Kong flag at city hall. Wang and the Emerson Chinese Student Association are planning information sessions about Chinese culture and history for students on campus.

“I think campus is a very important place for these conversations, because a lot of times these kinds of conversations turn out to be educational and formative,” said Hui. “Even when debates happen, it's still something that other students can try to wrap their minds around it and try to make sense of.”

Clarification: Shen is Shen Lu’s family name. The journalist uses the Chinese naming convention, which refers to a person's family name before their given name. The written and radio versions of this story have been updated.

WGBH Beat the Press intern Kayla LaRosa contributed to this report.