Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) students have appealed to the public for help after police entered the school campus and made mass arrests in the early hours of Monday.
“Today is a heartbreaking day to all PolyU students. We saw a fiery blaze engulf the gates to our university. Several thousand have been trapped on campus after the police surrounded the school and blocked all exits at around 7:30pm on Sunday,” Oiwan Li, a student representative for PolyU’s governing council, said at a press conference on Monday morning.
“PolyU is now facing the biggest crisis since its establishment over 80 years ago. This incident is the most severe humanitarian crisis in the current democratic movement,” Li added.
Police entered the campus at around 5:30am on Monday, following intense, day-long clashes around the Hung Hom site the day before. Protesters had occupied PolyU campus and set up defence lines for a week, in keeping with a larger plan to mobilise a general strike.
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.
Multiple people had been injured and at least three people have been wounded in their eyes, according to Li.
“Forty people have shown signs of hypothermia after being sprayed by water cannon. But because police have arrested or taken away most first aiders and emergency relief personnel, there are not enough resources to attend to the injured,” he added.
Li called on the public to offer support by surrounding the police stationed outside PolyU as well as participating in a citywide strike and class boycott.
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, PolyU Student Union Acting President Ken Woo Kwok-wang told RTHK.
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 in a video broadcast early on Monday morning 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.
He said that Teng’s response came too late and that had he intervened earlier on, the situation would not have escalated into a police encirclement.
A protester told RTHK that police had been insulting to the demonstrators. “I think everyone here shares the sentiment that we will fight fearlessly until our last breath,” he said. “We don’t have a choice now so we must persist.”
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.”
“We call for everyone who [is] committed to solidarity, peace and justice to support each other in their possible ways, and do not give up in face of this crisis,” the Front said.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, patron of NGO Hong Kong Watch and vice-chairman of Westminster Friends of Hong Kong, 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.”
The Education Bureau announced on Monday that all schools in Hong Kong will remain suspended the next day, but primary schools, secondary schools and some special schools are expected to resume classes on Wednesday.
On Monday, the Labour Department urged employers to make flexible work arrangements to ensure the safety of employees.
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