‘There’s No Way Out’ – Police Trap Hundreds Of Protesters On “PolyU” Campus
Update: After two days of skirmishes with the police outside and on the campus of Polytechnic University, or “PolyU”, police have cornered hundreds of demonstrators on the campus, which the protesters have surrounded with traps and barricades.
Other demonstrators have come out to peacefully ask the police to stand down and allow the protester-students to regroup and treat those who are injured or suffering from severe hypothermia.
The protesters have held the police off from entering the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, fortifying their holdout with homemade fire bombs, giant sling shots, bricks and bows and arrows, according to the New York Times.
At least 38 people were injured in a protracted battle at the university on Sunday, the city’s Hospital Authority said, after a bloody battle where one officer was hit by an arrow and protesters set a van on fire. With weapons and supplies running low, the remaining protesters at PolyU on Monday evening sought to flee the campus, but found all of their escape routes blocked by heavily armed riot police, ready to rain down tear gas and rubber bullets on the defeated demonstrators.
Earlier in the day, students tried unsuccessfully to break through a police cordon, but they were pushed back. Still, students are fearful that obeying police orders to drop their weapons and leave through a designated exit will result in them being attacked by police.
Elsewhere in the city, the chaos persists.
The students have occupied the university for a week now. But in a sign of support from the community, about 100 people staged a sit-in directly in front of the police cordon near the university. The group included many women believed to be mothers of some of the trapped protesters.
“Most of the people here are parents,” said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker who joined the rally. “They realize once their children get out they will be immediately arrested. They just want to take a look at their kid and see if he or she is O.K.”
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Hong Kong police are surrounding universities around town after a series of clashes over the weekend centered on campuses where student protesters have constructed citadels for the pro-democracy cause. After a brief raid that led to police detaining some protesters, most have regrouped outside Polytechnic University in Kowloon, where protesters have called for a rally Monday night to show support for the students.
Meanwhile, the siege of “PolyU”, as it’s widely known, entered a second day on Monday, which also marked a complete week of continuous unrest in Hong Kong.
According to the FT, officers from the special tactical team known as the “raptors” attempted to storm the university in the early hours of Monday morning but were beaten back by volleys of Molotov cocktails that set the main entrance to the school ablaze.
The MTR has said the following stations will close at 9 pm on Monday: Kwai Fong, Mong Kok, Jordan, Whampoa, Wong Tai Sin, Kwun Tong, Causeway Bay, Sai Wan Ho, HKU, Sha Tin, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Yuen Long, Ma On Shan, Sha Tin Wai, Tseung Kwan O and Hang Hau. Meanwhile these stations will remain out of service: Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hung Hom, University, Tai Po Market, Tai Wo and Fanling.
Elsewhere on Monday evening, battles raged between protesters in police. Per SCMP, on Nathan Road near Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station, a battle raged between a dozen black-clad protesters and riot police. As of Monday evening, all minors had been evacuated from the university. And a group of alumni and current students insisted that the government allow first responders and medical professionals to visit inside the campus to treat students “in critical need of a well-equipped medical team.”
After some particularly aggressive clashes, police allowed medical professionals into the campus to treat wounded protesters. According to SCMP, roughly 600 protesters are still trapped on campus. Some warned that neutral students who had sought refuge inside the campus might also still be there.
Some protesters are reportedly suffering from severe hypothermia after being hit by a water cannon. They also blamed police for occupying the university clinic, claiming that some of the injured wouldn’t risk leaving campus because of the brutality police would subject them to.
Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said schools will remain closed Tuesday “since there are still unstable factors affecting the roads and traffic conditions and more time should be given for schools to make good preparation for class resumption.” Schools have been suspended since last Thursday on safety concerns, and many schools are expected to reopen on Wednesday.
In other news, HK’s High Court ruled that the mask ban, which has been widely ignored by protesters, is unconstitutional, meaning it is no longer in effect.
The continued unrest has prompted Philippine Airlines to decrease the number of flights flying its Manila-Hong Kong route as travelers opt out of their flights to avoid continued unrest, according to company spokeswoman Cielo Villaluna said. The carrier will no longer use the wide-body 295-seater Airbus A350 and 309-seater A330 aircraft for the route, opting for the narrow-body, 199-seater A321s instead. Operations will revert to usual frequency “once the situation makes that possible,” Villaluna said.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam visited a police officer on Monday who had been injured in clashes with students. Afterwards, Lam asked students to listen to police and give up. Meanwhile, police have urged protesters to drop their weapons and surrender.
As violence in recent days has centered around Hong Kong’s universities, the schools have mostly cancelled classes until next semester. Demonstrators at PolyU have also proven particularly disruptive by blocking a tunnel that offers a critical access point across the harbor. But students have repeatedly blocked it over the past week.