More protesters leave besieged PolyU, others escape by rope

November 19, 2019 09:51
Protesters trapped at the besieged Polytechnic University campus climb down ropes to be picked up by motorcycles, to escape on Monday night. Photo:

Dozens of protesters staged a dramatic escape from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hung Hom after police sealed off the campus by shimmying down ropes from a bridge and fleeing on waiting motorcycles as the police fired projectiles.

More than 100 people were allowed to leave PolyU early on Tuesday, having been trapped inside the campus since Sunday night, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

Minors were allowed to go home safely, although their identities were taken and they still face prosecution later, the public broadcaster said.

A delegation of secondary school heads and education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen had interceded for them, the report said.

Those aged over 16 were immediately arrested and taken to police stations, it added.

Many more protesters, mostly students, remained trapped inside the campus.

Some of the protesters who escaped on Monday lowered themselves several meters from a bridge they had occupied on the campus to a flyover below. They then sped off on the back of motorcycles that were already waiting or arrived quickly.

A number of them appeared subsequently to have been arrested, a Reuters witness said.

Other protesters, hurling petrol bombs, tried repeatedly to break into the campus but police fired tear gas and water cannon to push them back.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday said she hopes the standoff between police protesters at PolyU can be resolved peacefully, adding that she has told police to handle it in a humane way.

Lam was speaking after China's State Council appointed Chris Tang Ping-keung the new police chief of Hong Kong.

Tang, who assumes the position after the retirement of Stephen Lo Wai-chung, called for citizens’ support to end more than five months of civil unrest in the city.

The United States expressed concern about the situation but China’s ambassador to London accused Western countries of interfering.

The size of demonstrations has dwindled in recent weeks, but clashes have worsened since early last week, when police shot a protester, a man was set on fire and the city’s financial district was filled with tear gas in the middle of the workday.

The Hospital Authority reported 116 injuries on Monday, including one female in serious condition.

Earlier on Monday, police prevented dozens of people breaking out of the university through police lines. Officers had been deployed “on the periphery” of the campus for a week, appealing to “rioters” to leave, police said.

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, a pro-Beijing politician and former president of the Legislative Council who sought to mediate between the police and the protesters, said there could be bloodshed if the police entered the campus by force and met strong resistance, adding: “This is something that we want to avoid.”

Tsang, who was with legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming, said it was priority to ensure children trapped inside get out first.

Early on Tuesday, about 20 students accompanied by Tsang left the campus voluntarily, RTHK said.

In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters the US was “gravely concerned” about the unrest and violence and said the Hong Kong government bore primary responsibility for ensuring a return to calm.

“Unrest and violence cannot be resolved by law enforcement efforts alone,” he said, calling for an independent investigation into protest-related incidents and for the ruling Communist Party of China to honor promises of freedom and liberties for the Hong Kong people.

Earlier on Monday, China’s ambassador to London accused foreign countries including the United States and Britain of interfering in Chinese internal affairs through their reactions.

“Some Western countries have publicly supported extreme violent offenders,” Ambassador Liu Xiaoming told a news conference at which he criticized Western reporting on Hong Kong as “misleading” and not giving enough prominence to violence perpetrated by the protesters. With Reuters

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