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Police, protesters clash at HK varsity campus

Police, protesters clash at HK varsity campus
Riot police pin down a protester trying to flee from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, Monday. (AP)
Hong Kong, Nov 18 (IANS) | Publish Date: 11/18/2019 10:18:52 AM IST

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. 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 in to 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.”

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