Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta (Nov 19). Many Hong Kong pro-democracy activists stayed at the Polytechnic University campus in Hung Hom since Sunday despite repeated warnings to leave. Hundreds of protesters and police officers were locked in a stand-off at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In the afternoon, radicals arrested when they tried to escape from campus.
Hong Kong riot police have arrested more than 50 people near the Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui. The area has been under siege since Sunday as police surrounded PolyU’s Hung Hom campus where protesters had been for nearly a week. Clashes have broken out as volleys of tear gas were fired by police and demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails.
Protesters started a massive fire at the school entrance to fend off police, who stormed the campus and detained a few at around 5.30am on Monday. They had occupied PolyU campus and set up defence lines for a week, in keeping with a larger plan to mobilise a general strike.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to pin back frantic protesters trying to flee PolyU where hundreds were holed up with petrol bombs and other homemade weapons.
Dozens tried to escape again from the PolyU after a dreadful night when roads were blocked and a bridge was set on fire and a police officer was shot by a bow and arrow. “The police might not storm the campus but it seems like they are trying to catch people as they attempt to run,” Democratic lawmaker Hui Chi-fung told Reuters.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) students have appealed to the public for help.
“Today is a heartbreaking day to all PolyU students. Several thousand have been trapped on campus after the police surrounded the school and blocked all access,” Oiwan Li, a student representative for PolyU’s governing council, said at a press conference on Monday morning.
Li said that demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails at police in response to officers storming the campus and conducting mass arrests. Meanwhile, the force said that they did not “raid” PolyU but carried out a dispersal and arrest operation in response to protesters’ actions.
There were at least 500 people remaining on campus as of Monday morning – 70 to 100 of whom unsuccessfully attempted to leave after police fired tear gas towards them, said vice-president of the university’s student union Ken Woo Kwok-wang.
Woo said the outcome of the situation depends on the police response. He added that protesters would be forced to stay inside the campus if officers planned to arrest them upon leaving.
At around 2pm, a group of protesters on Cheong Wan Road outside PolyU tried to escape from the campus but were met with tear gas and projectiles fired by the police. At least 10 arrests were made.
In a Facebook post, police urged people inside the campus to drop their weapons, dispose of any dangerous items, remove their gas masks and leave in an orderly manner via the top level of Cheong Wan Road South Bridge.
“They should follow instructions and must not charge at police cordons,” the force added.
PolyU’s top management said in a statement on Monday noon that they had requested a meeting with the police top brass to discuss ways to resolve the standoff peacefully. “We are waiting for the reply from the police,” it said.
The Hospital Authority said on Monday that at least 38 had been injured and sent to the hospital – five in a serious condition.
PolyU President Teng Jin-Guang said that police had granted those remaining on campus the permission to leave.
“I will personally accompany you to the police station to ensure that your case will be fairly processed,” Teng added.
Describing the condition as “unacceptable,” Woo said that allowing people to leave on the condition they surrender to the police does not meet the demand for everyone to be permitted to leave safely.
In a statement issued at midnight, local group Civil Human Rights Front urged the authorities to refrain from using lethal force against protestors. It asked the international community to join their appeal for a “de-escalation of state violence.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, patron of NGO Hong Kong Watch said on Monday that the city had reached a critical juncture.
“I do not condone the violence on the part of some of the students, but equally it is important to understand that the disproportionate police brutality and cynical, manipulative, provocation by agents provocateurs is what has brought Hong Kong to this crisis point,” he said.
“I urge Hong Kong’s authorities not to escalate the crisis further, but rather to de-escalate it and seek ways to address the protesters’ grievances rather than respond to them with force.”