Hundreds returned to the streets on Monday to demand the release of the dozens of protesters trapped inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). The campus in Hung Hom has been surrounded by police for ten days.
People gathered in Tsim Sha Tsui East near PolyU and chanted slogans such as “Release them” and “Hang in there, brothers and sisters.”
Some held up mobile phone lights across from PolyU as a gesture of solidarity.
Others shouted in anger at the riot police stationed at a footbridge outside Harbour Crystal Centre.
Officers shone strong lights back at the crowd and took videos of them, according to United Social Press.
At around 7:30pm on Monday, protesters who were previously trapped on the campus turned up and marched in Tsim Sha Tsui.
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On Monday afternoon, dozens of newly elected District Councillors assembled near PolyU to negotiate with police over the release of the remaining protesters.
Only five councillors were allowed into the school to meet with the protesters, including Gary Fan and Roy Kwong, who are lawmakers.
Fan said later that he spoke with two protesters, who asked the public not to attempt rescue efforts as they did not want to see anyone arrested.
He added that the protesters distrusted the police and preferred to speak to university representatives.
It is unclear how many protesters are still remaining on the school grounds. PolyU said that dozens of protesters may be in hiding on campus, though a pastor told HKFP on Monday that perhaps five or six remained.
PolyU Vice-President Alexander Wai Ping-kong said on Tuesday that the school had struck a deal whereby whereby officers would allow the remaining protesters to leave after taking down their personal information; no immediate arrests would be made.
He said around 50 staff members, social workers and others had been sent to search for the remaining protesters.
The school said earlier that the safety and hygiene situation at the school had further deteriorated.
It expressed hope that the police would lift the cordon so that the school can begin restoration work and resume operations as soon as possible.
Hundreds began occupying PolyU and several other universities on November 11 in keeping with a larger plan to mobilise a citywide strike and class boycott.
In the evening, hundreds gathered in Tsim Sha Tsui East’s Science Museum and across the PolyU footbridges in Hung Hom, to shout and sing songs to show support to those inside the campus – besieged now for nine days.
Photo: Galileo Cheng. pic.twitter.com/bLkhduE3k4
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) November 25, 2019
The lockdown of PolyU began on the evening of November 17, with riot police blocking all campus exits and announcing that everyone present in the school would be arrested in suspicion of rioting.
Protesters have attempted daring escapes to avoid capture from police, including climbing down ropes from a bridge and venturing into underground sewers.
Following public and international outcry against the police handling of the PolyU demonstrations, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last week that authorities would adopt a “humanitarian” approach by not immediately arresting underage protesters, as well as allowing medics to enter the campus to treat those injured.
More than 1,100 people have been arrested or have had their information collected by police in connection to the PolyU siege – roughly a fifth of all arrests since the unrest began in June.
Hong Kong has entered into its 26th week of demonstrations, sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have enabled the transfer of suspects to mainland China. The protests have since morphed into wider demands for democratic reform and police accountability.
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