Hong Kong protesters arrested as they flee besieged university

Hundreds remain cornered by police inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University

November 18, 2019
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Hundreds of activists remained trapped inside a Hong Kong university surrounded by police despite many trying to flee after almost a week inside.

About 200 protesters have occupied Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) for days but some have tried to escape as police threatened to break through barricades. On Sunday night protesters set fire to a university entrance to prevent officers from entering, with police using tear gas and water cannon on protestors.

On 18 November, a group of about 100 people tried to leave PolyU but were met with tear gas and rubber bullets, BBC News reported. Several protesters were also arrested as they ran from the campus, which has become a battleground as long-running anti-government protests became more violent.

Sky’s Asia correspondent Tom Cheshire, who has been inside the university, said that police had broken through some barricades but there was “layer after layer of defence”. He said that protesters had been trying to get out of the university because “they think there’s not a future here and the best thing they can do is chance it with the police. There are running battles all around campus.”

Meanwhile, crowds of protesters have tried to break the police siege of PolyU, with officers firing tear gas to push back the demonstrators, The Guardian reported. This, and other running battles with police in other parts of the city, are partly a tactic to draw police resources away from PolyU to help activists to escape, it added.

On 17 November, PolyU released a statement saying that its campus, located in central Hong Kong near the city’s Hung Hom train station, had been “severely and extensively damaged” in the protest.

“The unlawful activities and acts of violence inside the campus and in its vicinity have been escalating, including damage to a number of laboratories on campus with dangerous chemicals being taken away,” it said.  It added that the “spiralling radical illegal activities” posed a risk to safety, but may also cause “class suspension over an indefinite period of time”.

The university’s president Jin-Guang Teng has said, however, that he would accompany protesters to the police station to ensure their cases would be processed fairly.

“I hope that you will accept the proposed temporary suspension of force and leave the campus in a peaceful manner,” he said, claiming that the police had agreed to temporarily suspend the use of force.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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