Underage protesters at PolyU campus allowed to go home

November 19, 2019 13:07
Protesters leaving the Polytechnic University campus wrap themselves in foil blankets as they wait to be transported to hospitals for medical treatment on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

A number of underage protesters were allowed to leave the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hung Hom on Tuesday, after being trapped in the campus during a standoff with the police since Sunday.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said the peaceful outcome came following negotiations between the police and a group of public figures, including himself, former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, PolyU Council chairman Lam Tai-fai and Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a principal lecturer at the Department of Law of the University of Hong Kong.

He said they were allowed to enter the campus late Monday night to talk with the protesters, mostly students, and negotiate with the police.

Following the negotiations, Ip said the police force promised that protesters aged below 18 could leave freely without being arrested on the spot after their pictures and identities were taken.

Still, police reserve the right to take legal action against them in the future.

For those aged 18 or above, the police insisted on arresting them on the spot, although they were allowed to be accompanied by their principals and lawyers.

After the talks, Ip asked a delegation of secondary school principals to come to PolyU and accompany protesters from their respective schools as they leave the campus, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Some of the students were seen crying as they left, while others slammed the school officials for telling them to turn themselves in.

Tsang himself had accompanied the protesters as they left the campus, promising them that the police would not do anything illegal against them.

He said more than one hundred protesters had left the campus after midnight, about half of them aged under 18.

PolyU's Lam, who had been denied entry into the campus multiple times on Monday, was finally allowed to go inside late in the night. He said he was able to persuade the protesters to take the chance to leave the campus safely, telling them they should cherish their lives.

Some protesters told RTHK they were not afraid of being arrested but were scared of police brutality during detention.

Before the regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told media that she has been following up on “the incident” at PolyU with the new Police Commissioner Chris Tang Ping-keung.

She said she has put forward two principles. First, she said, the incident must be resolved peacefully, with the hope that the protesters would drop their weapons and leave orderly according to police instructions.

The second is to deal with the injured or underage protesters in a humanitarian manner, and persuade minors to leave through individuals such as secondary school principals and religious figures.

Lam also pointed out, as of Tuesday morning, about 600 had left the PolyU campus, with about 200 of them under 18.

At around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, more protesters left the campus, many of them wrapped in foil blankets and sent to hospitals in ambulances.

– Contact us at [email protected]