Hong Kong police and firefighters have entered the Polytechnic University (PolyU) more than 10 days after officers surrounded the Hung Hom campus.
Assistant Police Commissioner (Operations) Joe Chow said on Thursday morning that the action was not aimed at actively searching for protesters who remained on site. Instead, officers would remove dangerous items such as petrol bombs and corrosive liquids, as well as gather evidence.
“The environment inside the campus is dangerous,” Chow said. “We hope to return a safe campus to the school as soon as possible.”
He said a team of negotiation experts, clinical psychologists and social workers will speak to protesters if the police team meets any.
Over 1,100 have been arrested in relation to the siege at PolyU, which began on the evening of November 17 when riot police blocked all campus exits and announced that anyone leaving would be arrested for rioting. Prior to that, black-clad protesters and police had been locked in escalating clashes as demonstrators sought to occupy universities in keeping with a larger plan to mobilise a citywide strike and class boycott.
Chow said that the personal details of protesters will be recorded if they seek medical help, but they will not be arrested.
Plainclothes police and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau officers in protective suits were among those who entered the campus on Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday afternoon, PolyU issued a statement calling on the police to lift the blockade, saying that it had already sent 100 people to conduct a comprehensive search for protesters – to no avail.
“20” still on site
But on Wednesday night, a demonstrator calling himself “Bong” met the press inside the campus and said that there were around 20 people still hiding inside.
Bong said protesters were angered by the police plan to enter the campus, and said he would not rule out further protests. He said school management and other members of the public have entered the campus many times over the past few days, and there was no value in gathering evidence inside the campus.
“People who chose to stay inside the campus clearly do not trust the police, so they chose not to appear in public after the school searched the campus,” he said.
He said protesters would leave after the police lift the blockade, and dangerous items on the campus are handled by firefighters.
Bong also claimed that people of unknown identities – who claimed to be first-aiders – tried to break into rooms where protesters were staying after midnight and harassed them. He said the people tried to persuade them to leave the campus via ambulances.
“We believe this was a police tactic,” he said.
PolyU Vice-President Ben Young said the school only requested that the relevant authorities handle dangerous items on the campus, and the school did not participate in Wednesday’s police action.
“I urge everyone staying on campus to leave as soon as possible. The police cannot lift the blockade if we do not handle the dangerous items,” he said.
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