Hong Kong police entered the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in the early hours of Monday following violent, day-long clashes around the site in Hung Hom on Sunday.
The police action took place at around 5:30am, with multiple arrests reported and ten people hospitalised since Sunday.
Most of Sunday’s clashes were concentrated around the bridges connecting to the campus, as well as the intersection outside the school’s main entrance. Protesters had been occupying the campus and setting up defence lines for a week, in keeping with a larger plan to mobilise a citywide strike and class boycott.
Protesters on campus set fire to projectiles, claiming that they were defensive moves to block police from advancing. On Sunday night, multiple explosions were seen on the bridges.
At around 1am, protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at police along Chatham Road South. Officers responded by spraying water cannon at the group, prompting more Molotovs to be hurled at police.
At around 1:24am, Owan Li – a student representative on PolyU’s university council, – said in a press conference that police had blocked all of the entrances to PolyU, preventing anyone from leaving the school.
“As far as I know, people on campus are panicking, with some people feeling powerless about not being able to leave. We hereby urge everyone in society to help us save our university campus,” Li said, as he became visibly upset.
Also present at the press conference, PolyU’s Student Union President Derek Liu said that police were using unequal force and “weapons” to prevent anyone – including staff members, medical personnel and members of the public with the intention to help those in need – from escaping.
“We extremely regret that police undertook the arrest operation. We absolutely do not wish to see another June 4 [1989 Tiananmen Massacre] event taking place in Hong Kong, or even at PolyU, our second home,” Liu said.
At around 2am, Auxiliary Bishop of Hong Kong Joseph Ha, several pro-democracy legislators and PolyU staff members approached the entrances of PolyU and requested to speak to the commanding officer. “Many young people inside the school want to leave. We want to see what we can do to help,” Ha told the officers on the scene.
Police shone strong light back at the group and told them to leave immediately: “Back off now. This is a warning.”
Little progress has been made after Catholic bishop Joseph Ha and pro-democracy legislators attempted to speak to the police commanders near PolyU.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) November 17, 2019
Ha said that the group spent an hour trying to enter PolyU from three locations but the police rejected their requests each time. He expressed hope that the police would distinguish between those who had broken the law and those who had not when taking action.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said that pro-democracy lawmakers had been trying to contact high-ranking officials but to no avail. He said that if the police fired live shots against protesters, it would be the “reenaction of the June 4 Tiananmen massacre” and there would be no hope in terms of deescalating the conflict.
Live shots fired
Several live shots were fired at around 3am near a Jordan Road intersection outside the campus.
According to RTHK, protesters said that a person who was injured was refusing to use an ambulance because there were two police officers inside. The broadcaster said that demonstrators surrounded and shook the vehicle, throwing bricks, glass bottles and Molotovs inside.
Police later said that protesters were attempting to take away a 20-year-old woman who had been arrested at the intersection of Nathan Road and Jordan Road. Police said that an officer fired three shots but they believed that no one had been hit. The force condemned the actions of the protesters.
At 4:23am, the Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union said on Facebook that two social workers were arrested when they attempted to approach PolyU’s Lee Shau Kee Building from outside – the police had promised earlier that anyone who wished to leave PolyU could do so through the building. The union said that the two social workers wanted to verify whether the location was indeed safe for those inside PolyU to leave, but they were arrested near the building after officers told them that anyone without a press pass would be detained.
At around 5:30am, riot police entered the grounds of PolyU, arresting people inside and pushing back the protesters’ defence line.
Stand News cited sources on the ground as saying that riot police entered the space designated for patient care and arrested those injured as well as first-aid responders. A video apparently filmed at 6:33am in the office of a PolyU doctor showed bloodstains on a hospital bed, a desk and a drawer.
A handwritten note saying “Sorry!! We needed to escape to your office because riot police are charging by surprise. I am very sorry and hope you will understand. Sorry.” was left on the desk.
Police said that officers did not “raid” the campus of PolyU, but carried out a “dispersal and arrest operation” after “a large gang of rioters” hurled petrol bombs at officers and set fire to objects.
“Explosives, flammable substances and dangerous goods also pose threats to anyone therein. Police appeal to anyone inside Polytechnic University to leave immediately,” the police said in a Facebook statement at 6:16am.
At around 6:40am, PolyU President Teng Jin-Guang made an announcement in a video: “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, the police will not initiate the use of force.”
“In addition, we have also received permission from the police for you to leave the campus peacefully, and I will personally accompany you to the police station to ensure that your case will be fairly processed,” Teng said.
PolyU issued an emergency statement earlier calling on students and staff to evacuate the campus. University management appealed to students to stop the violence and exercise restraint, adding that the school’s facilities had been seriously damaged.
As of 10pm Sunday, the Hospital Authority said that 10 people were hospitalised. One of the injured is in serious condition while five in stable condition. The remaining four have been discharged.
A police officer was hit with an arrow earlier on Sunday.
On Tuesday, the police stormed the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in a similar manner. Multiple students and journalists were injured, with a South China Morning Post photojournalist being reportedly grazed in the head by a projectile.
CUHK, the University of Hong Kong and the City University of Hong Kong have announced a premature end to the fall term, while other universities suspended classes last week.
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