Tense scenes in Hong Kong as anti-government protesters refuse to leave university
A band of anti-government protesters remain holed-up in a Hong Kong university campus in a tense standoff with police.
Pro-democracy protesters have occupied Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University since last week, but Hong Kong Police Force has said 1,000 of these have surrendered, including 300 minors under 18.
For the remaining group, estimated to be fewer than 100 according to The Associated Press, escape now seems unlikely.
There is a siege and a cleanup on site, with riot police massed and garbage collectors clearing the trash and debris left behind. A stench permeates campus, according to AP.
The remaining protesters have ignored pleas to leave.
“If you go out and surrender it’s like you’re showing you agree with the government and police,” a masked protester told CTV’s Paul Workman inside the campus.
The police strategy, meanwhile, is to wait.
"We appeal to them to give up their weapons and leave in an orderly manner,” Hong Kong Police Chief Ho Yeung-Sing told reporters.
Protesters who leave could be arrested for rioting, which can lead to a 10-year prison sentence.
Resistance to Chinese rule has gripped the former British colony for more than five months, with protests often turning violent.
Owan Li, a student council member, has been watching events unfold from outside the university grounds. He hopes the violence will end and says that everyone “in this global village, we should stand with the Hong Kong people.”
“It is horrible, it is terrible, just like war,” he said.
Hong Kong's protests began in June over an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China to face trial. Opponents saw it as a threat to the "one country, two systems" framework that gives Hong Kong its relative autonomy.
The bill appears to have been withdrawn, but protesters now demand democratic elections and an independent investigation into police actions in suppressing the protests. City leaders have rejected these demands and said violence must stop before meaningful dialogue can begin.
Wilson Leung, a member of the pro-democracy Progressive Lawyers Group in Hong Kong, told CTV News Channel that protesters would like to see a political solution to the deadlock.
“The requests made by the protesters have been quite clear,” he said.
“I think the most important one at the moment is some sort of enquiry into police brutality, which people have been calling for months including very moderate voices in the community.
“Unfortunately the government seems to be taking the very opposite approach, which is to slam down hard with as much force as possible, essentially treating this like a law and order problem as if they were dealing with a group of terrorists.”
Pro-democracy protesters have also been accused of excessive violence, with buildings ransacked, roads blocked and Molotov cocktails thrown.
“There have also been a lot of attempts at peaceful protests around the city,” Leung said.
“Even these peaceful protests have been slammed down quite hard by the government. They don’t grant any of the permits for the peaceful marches.
“Even when office workers were protesting in the CBD on a lunch time in a weekday we saw extraordinary scenes where police were firing tear gas in the middle of the central business district and all these professionals had to run away in their suits.”
Pronouncements from Chinese President Xi Jinping on the Hong Kong situation are “worrisome” Leung added.
“The central government in Beijing is encouraging the Hong Kong government to basically to say ‘you have to squelch these protests by whatever means possible’ and that leads to the fear that there’s going to be a further escalation and perhaps even a military involvement,” Leung said.
Meanwhile, 31 University of British Columbia students on exchange programs at Hong Kong universities have been advised to leave the city.
Twenty have left and 11 remain safe and accounted for, according to a statement from UBC.
“Six have firm departure plans leaving before the end of November, three are with family in Hong Kong and wish to stay,” said UBC’s student vice president Ainsley Carry.
“We are working with the remaining two on travel planning. All students that are departing have been offered emergency bursaries to support their departure valued at $1,000.”
UBC has cancelled second term exchanges to Hong Kong.
--- With files from The Associated Press