100 Protesters, Bystanders Still Trapped at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University

Some protesters under the age of 18 leave from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the Hung Hom district of Hong Kong early on November 19, 2019. - Around 100 demonstrators remained on November 19 barricaded inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) surrounded by riot squads who have been besieging …
YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images

The police siege of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University continued on Thursday, with about a hundred pro-democracy demonstrators trapped inside along with a substantial number of student bystanders.

According to lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who has been assisting people who wish to leave the campus, the non-protesters were trapped inside because “the time that allowed them to leave was too short” and they were nervous about “conflict between the protesters and police.”

Ip said he was uncertain how many of the people trapped in the campus are non-protesters. “I can’t say if they are 10 percent, 20 percent, or 50 percent,” he said, adding that he believes some of them are under 18 years of age.

Polytechnic University President Teng Jin-guang said on Wednesday he believes around 100 protesters are still holed up on the campus, with only 20 of them being students enrolled at the institution. 

“The campus is in a chaotic condition with dangerous chemicals. Hygiene conditions are also deteriorating. We believe that these conditions pose a significant risk to the people in the campus,” he said.

Teng promised he and other university officials would do everything possible to ensure protesters are “treated fairly and humanely by officers, as long as they make their way out peacefully.” 

The police have said everyone over the age of 18 who departs the campus will be arrested and charged with rioting, while those under 18 will be allowed to go home after giving their personal information to the authorities.

AFP on Wednesday described Polytechnic University as the “epicenter” of the Hong Kong protests and the scene of the “most intense and prolonged” standoff between protesters and police since the current political crisis began almost six months ago. The effect of the standoff on the Hong Kong public is difficult to judge. Some think the protesters went too far by occupying and damaging university property, while others have expressed sympathy for the young demonstrators and anger at the police for treating them harshly.

“I don’t ever give up. Yes, I will fight until the end,” a 15-year-old protester armed with a bow and arrow told AFP. “It’s very dangerous, because when you use the bow, the police must shoot you, with some unknown bullets. Maybe real bullets.”

AFP reported that protesters are still creating roadblocks as one of their primary tactics, including blockades at the entrances to schools and disruptions to roads and subways that appear intended to draw heat away from the Polytechnic University holdouts.

On Thursday morning, some university officials paid a visit to the campus and helped clean up the canteen area after they were confronted by a masked protester known as “The Chef,” who waggled a spoon at them and asked, “Has anyone been helping me? Have you fulfilled your duties?”

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