PolyU urges protesters to leave peacefully after police talks

November 18, 2019 15:20
Protesters clash with police at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Monday. Police reiterated that they did not 'raid' the premises. Photo: Reuters

The president of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), Teng Jin-guang, has urged everyone in the campus to leave peacefully, as he seeks to restore calm in the area that has witnessed serious clashes between anti-government protesters and the police over the weekend.

In a video released early Monday morning, Teng said he had been communicating with the police since Sunday afternoon and that the police had given assurance that the use of force against on-campus protesters would be suspended as long as the demonstrators do not attack first.

The police would allow the protesters to leave peacefully, according to Teng, who said he opted to deliver the message through video as the police have advised that meeting the protesters face-to-face would be risky in the current tense atmosphere.

The PolyU head added that if the protesters leave in a peaceful fashion, he would look out for their interests even in the event of potential arrests.

Teng said he would personally accompany the students to the police station to make sure their cases are processed in a fair manner.

The university chief said he hopes the protesters will accept his suggestion and leave the campus peacefully.

The school will do everything it can to help students weather the difficult time as well as try its best to provide them with all necessary assistance, he said.

The plea comes following a fierce standoff between protesters and the police over the weekend. Twenty-four people aged from 16 to 84 were sent to hospital due to clashes happening in the area around the PolyU campus between midnight and 7:30 am on Monday.

Among the injured, four were in serious condition, while 14 were in stable condition. The condition of two others was not known, while the rest have been discharged.

On Sunday, 14 were sent to hospital for treatment in relation to the protests, with one in serious condition, according to the Hospital Authority.

On Monday, several hundred protesters were still trapped inside the PolyU.

At around 5:30 am, police officers were seen entering the campus from Cheong Wan Road and making arrests.

The move triggered another wave of clashes, with some protesters shooting arrows and hurling petrol bombs at the police, who later retreated to the outside of the school but kept firing rubber bullets and tear gas.

In a government press release issued around 6:30 am, the police said since midnight “a large gang of rioters gathered at Cheong Wan Road, hurled petrol bombs at Police. They also set objects ablaze.”

The police reiterated that they did not “raid” the premises of the PolyU, appealing to everyone inside the campus to leave immediately, according to the government press release.

“Fires were observed in various locations in the PolyU premises. Explosives, flammable substances and dangerous goods also pose threats to anyone therein,” the release said. “Police appeal to everyone inside the campus to leave immediately.”

In another post posted by the police on its Facebook page sometime before noon, the police said they “appeal to everyone inside the Polytechnic University to drop their weapons and dangerous items, remove their gas masks and leave via the top level of Cheong Wan Road South Bridge in an orderly manner. They should follow police instructions and must not charge at police cordons.”

A group of black-clad people then came out of the main gate of PolyU at around 12 noon, walking along Cheong Wan Road and then reaching Chatham Road South, only to be met with tear gas and water cannon from the police. Some of the black-clad people then retreated back to the campus.

Some protesters made three attempts to break through the police's cordon line at around 1:30 p.m., aiming to leave the campus. But the police responded by firing multiple canisters of tear gas, before subduing a number of the black-clad people.

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In a video released early Monday, PolyU president Teng Jin-guang urged everyone in the campus to leave peacefully. Photo: Online video/screenshot