PolyU holdout protesters said to suffer poor hygiene conditions

November 22, 2019 12:47
Chicken meat is seen among debris at a cafeteria in PolyU on Thursday. A protester asked some visiting university officials to help in cleaning up the canteen and the kitchen. Photo: Reuters

The few dozen protesters who are still within the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), which has been under siege by riot police since Sunday in the wake of a violent standoff, are believed to be in a difficult situation, with poor hygiene conditions and dwindling food supplies. 

While more than 1,000 people, including underage and adult anti-government protesters, have left the campus in the past few days after successful mediation efforts by some public figures, about a hundred or so are said to remain holed up in the university as police lie in wait outside.

While they look for a way out, wondering how they can leave without getting arrested, they are confronted with a hygiene issue as the campus facilities have been littered with garbage and the canteen and kitchen wear a dirty look with leftover food lying around.

Julian Law Wing-chung, one of the “mediators” who negotiated with the police and assisted hundreds of protesters in leaving the PolyU campus in the past few days, told a radio program on Thursday morning that several dozen protesters are still hiding in different rooms within the university, to the best of his knowledge.

Some of those remain inside had diarrhea and fever, said Law, who had once as served as political assistant to former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah.

Besides the worsening sanitation on the PolyU campus, Law also said the automatic water sprinkler systems in the school’s library were suspected to have been activated on several occasions, causing flooding in some rooms.

On Thursday, PolyU Council chairman Lam Tai-fai, accompanied by two vice presidents of the institution -- Alexander Wai Ping-kong and Ben Young Lap-wai -- and several others, showed up on campus to inspect the premises.

A protester, who has been acting as a volunteer cook at the main canteen of the university, confronted the visitors and demanded an explanation as to why it it took so long for the PolyU management to make that trip.

After some angry words, the protester asked the university officials to help in cleaning up the canteen and the kitchen.

Wai and his associates, including Man Hau-chung, dean of PolyU's Faculty of Engineering, then wore gloves and spent about half an hour cleaning and dumping food waste and expired food.

While collecting garbage, Man told reporters present on the scene that the food was smelly and had been spoilt. The overall environment was very bad in terms of the hygiene conditions, the professor said.

Kuo Way, president of the City University of Hong Kong (CityU), also arrived on PolyU campus on Thursday, aiming to talk to any student protesters who were from his school. He stayed for a short period of time, leaving after failing to find any CityU students there.

In the early hours of Friday, six more people left the PolyU campus. They joined hands as they left by the campus’s main entrance and walked to a nearby ambulance station in Tsim Sha Tsui East, under the surveillance of riot police.

Another two protesters left the campus sometime after 6 am Friday and walked to the ambulance station nearby, also under the watch of riot police.

The students' union of PolyU had earlier estimated that there had been several tens of protesters hiding in different locations at the campus, though it was hard to give any precise number.

On Thursday afternoon, Louis Lau Siu-pong, a superintendent of the police's public relations unit, reported live, through Facebook streaming, from the periphery of the university.

During the live streaming, Lai claimed that after the police established a special coordination team that operates 24 hours a day, around 500 people from society were allowed to enter the PolyU campus as of Thursday to engage in negotiations or provide services including medical aid and counseling.

Lau reiterated that the police had not set any deadline for completion of the clearance operation.

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