Hundreds of protesters besieged by police in Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University for more than 12 hours remained holed up in the campus on Monday, after an extremely volatile day hitherto unseen in the anti-government protest movement that has been roiling the Asian financial hub for over five months.
Following a tense night in which many Hongkongers watched events unfold on live streams with apprehension, the fate of the anti-government activists stranded in PolyU in the harbour-side district of Hung Hom remains in limbo, reports Efe news.
Police officers who have been surrounding the campus since Sunday evening ban anyone from entering, and anyone walking out of the campus, except journalists with valid press passes, will be arrested.
At noon on Monday, the police repeated their message of the previous night, calling on all “rioters” inside the campus to surrender and come out “peacefully”.
At around the same time, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam went to a hospital to visit a police officer whose leg was hit by an arrow during a skirmish on Sunday. She is yet to make any comment on the siege.
According to Owan Li, a student representative on PolyU’s university council, at least three stranded activists have sustained eye injuries and 40 suffer from hypothermia after being hit by police water cannons on Sunday night.
Activists have also complained of a lack of medical attention, saying police arrested most paramedics who walked out of PolyU.
Some young protesters inside the campus have posted messages via social media calling for help and indicating that they would not surrender.
At a press conference on Sunda, PolyU’s student union president Derek Liu said: “We extremely regret that police undertook the arrest operation. We absolutely do not wish to see another June 4 [Tiananmen crackdown] taking place in Hong Kong, or even at PolyU, our second home.”
The marathon standoff took a turn at 5.30 a.m. when officers from tactical police units raided the campus. The trapped protesters then set fire to one entrance and hurled petrol bombs at advancing officers, who eventually made a number of arrests before retreating.
At around 8 a.m., two groups of protesters left the campus and tried to flee amid the heavy police presence in the area. The police then fired rounds tear gas, forcing them to return to the campus.
Shortly after the early morning raid, Poly U’s president Professor Teng Jinguang spoke for the first time since the siege. In a video statement, he called for protesters inside the campus to turn themselves into the police.
“I have been communicating closely with the police since last evening. We have now received the assurance of police of a temporary suspension of the use of force, under the condition that if the protesters do not initiate the use of force, police will not initiate the use of force.
“I hope that you will accept the proposed temporary suspension of force, and leave the campus in a peaceful manner.”
The dramatic scenes followed an exceptionally violent day marked by fierce clashes between the police and anti-government protesters mainly in Hung Hom, where there is an all-important undersea tunnel not far from the PolyU campus.
In effect, it was a battle between both sides for taking control over the Cross-Harbor Tunnel, which has been blocked over the past week by protesters with a variety of objects as part of a general strike they launched last Monday.
From 10 a.m. Sunday to the small hours of Monday, black-clad frontline protesters and the police fought fiercely on the streets of Hung Hom and the adjacent touristy Tsim Sha Tsui.
Countless petrol bombs were thrown at riot police, while the latter deployed numerous rounds of tear gas, water cannons and projectiles including rubber bullets against protesters.
According to the Hospital Authority, as of Monday noon, a total of 38 persons have been admitted to hospitals since Sunday, including five who are still in a serious condition.