HONG KONG - The stand-off between anti-government protesters barricaded inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and riot police continued without a resolution into the early hours of Tuesday (Nov 19).
About 40 injured protesters were allowed to leave the campus to get treatment, although they might still face charges later, South China Morning Post reported.
Others, except for accredited journalists, were told they would be arrested once they stepped out.
SCMP quoted a police source as saying that those who surrendered without a fight could expect lenient punishment, but all entrapped protesters had to answer to the law..
Clashes erupted on Monday as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to force back protesters trying to escape the university where hundreds are holed up.
Dozens inside the campus managed to escape by abseiling down to a highway from a campus footbridge. They were picked up by vehicles.
Medical personnel were allowed into the university on Monday night, while university officials called for more negotiations, and parents made emotional pleas to the authorities to let children caught up in the PolyU police siege leave unharmed.
The government called on those inside the campus to surrender peacefully and urged others to stay away from the site as protesters pleaded for reinforcements, including water and food, to battle police.
PolyU governing council member Rodney Chu said a group of the school’s senior managers, including president Teng Jin Guang, are waiting to enter the campus.
Earlier on Monday, Teng said in a video message that he had reached an agreement with police for a ceasefire, on the condition that the protesters stopped their attacks.
“We have also received permission from the police for you to leave the campus peacefully and I will personally accompany you to the police station to ensure that your case will be fairly processed,” he said, but to no avail.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin Yuen said police have agreed not to arrest under-18 pupils if they leave the campus with him, but he said police officers will record their information and reserve the right to take legal action against them.
The Hospital Authority also said last night that 116 people were injured and taken to hospitals, adding that a woman was in serious condition.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, in a Facebook post on Monday evening, said: “Police have many times made appeals. Those inside the campus should listen to police without delay.”
She was scheduled to hold a weekly press briefing on Tuesday morning.
Outside the university campus, parts of Kowloon also resembled a war zone on Monday night, with petrol bombs hurled by protesters exploding amid thick clouds of choking tear gas fired by police.
Thousands of people turned out on the main roads, including Nathan Road, to show support for those trapped inside PolyU.
Beijing’s ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming told a London press conference on Monday that China will not simply sit back and watch if months of protests in Hong Kong develop into an “uncontrollable” situation.
"If the situation becomes uncontrollable, the central government would certainly not sit on our hands and watch. We have enough resolution and power to end the unrest,” he said.
Mr Liu also warned against “external interference” in internal Chinese affairs, singling out Britain and the United States and accusing them of condoning violence by protesters.
“Some Western countries have publicly supported extreme violent offenders,” he said.
“The US House of Representatives adopted the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to blatantly interfere in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs.
“The British government and the foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons published China-related reports making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong.”
The European Commission on Monday called on law enforcement authorities in Hong Kong to keep their action “strictly proportionate”.
All schools and kindergartens for children with special needs in Hong Kong will be closed again on Tuesday (Nov 19), the government has announced. The shutdown began last Thursday amid transport chaos and escalating violence on the city's streets.
The authorities announced on Monday afternoon that the district council elections will be held on Sunday (Nov 24), and that the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) has mailed poll cards to about 4.13 million registered electors to inform them of where they should cast their votes on polling day.
Over 610 ordinary polling stations and 23 dedicated polling stations will be open on polling day.
Mr Ken Woo, the acting president of PolyU student union, told local broadcaster RTHK earlier on Monday that about 70 to 100 student protesters had attempted to leave the campus but were forced to retreat due to tear gas attacks.
He said there are still at least 500 people inside the university campus and that fresh water is still available, but other supplies such as food are quickly running out
He added that many of the demonstrators are badly injured and suffering from hypothermia following the multiple bursts from police water cannon since Sunday.
Mr Woo said despite the deteriorating situation, many of the protesters have decided to stay put, as they believe they will be arrested no matter what.
Shortly past 12pm, police issued a statement saying a large group of masked rioters tried to storm a police cordon around PolyU, triggering the firing of tear gas.
They appealed to people inside PolyU 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".
The statement said the protesters should follow police instructions and must not charge at police cordons.
At about 8am, television footage showed police firing tear gas at a large group of protesters who were trying to leave the area using Science Museum Road. The move forced the group to retreat to the campus. Local media reported another group on Austin Road also had to retreat.
At around 5.30am on Monday, police were pelted by petrol bombs when they tried to move in to disperse the hundreds of protesters holed up inside PolyU. Protesters set fire to the entrances to hinder the police, and thick smoke filled the air.
Footage showed that the flyover and a footbridge over the main road leading to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, next to PolyU, were set ablaze, as was a police armoured truck.
In a statement issued before 7am on Monday, the police said a large gang of rioters gathered at Cheong Wan Road next to PolyU at around midnight and hurled petrol bombs at officers, as well as set objects on fire.
The statement said multiple explosions were heard, and specialised crowd management vehicles and tear gas were deployed.
“At around 5.30am, police continue to conduct dispersal and arrest operation. Meanwhile, rioters gathering inside the campus set fire and caused extensive damage,” it added.
Separately, officers fired three live rounds in Tsim Sha Tsui at about 3am on Monday – three hours after a warning that officers would retaliate with bullets if protesters continued to attack them. No one was reported hurt.
The police said a 20-year-old female protester was arrested and was being escorted to an ambulance when a “mob of rioters” assaulted officers and helped her escape.
Online video showed a group of black-shirted protesters gathered around a stationary ambulance at the intersection of Jordan Road and Canton Road, with two police officers inside the vehicle.
Videos also showed people rocking the ambulance repeatedly. An officer under threat then fired three shots.
Veteran opposition politician Emily Lau said that some Hong Kong residents were getting tired of the mass disruptions, but that many still supported the movement’s broader goals.
“Some Hong Kong people have really lost patience with the radical protesters,” Ms Lau, a former chairman of the opposition Democratic Party, said on Bloomberg Television. “But there are others who are very sympathetic, who will take to the streets in black to continue to support them. So it is a city that is split asunder.”
She stressed that Chief Executive Carrie Lam needed to provide a political solution to break the deadlock before the city’s economy suffers further. “Business is in a terrible state – the hotels are empty, the shops are empty, the restaurants are empty. We’re in a recession, my dear!”
Meanwhile, the People’s Daily said in a front-page commentary that there’s no middle ground or room for compromise on issues related to Hong Kong’s future and sovereignty.
The official Communist Party publication said the unrest shows that it’s necessary and urgent to improve Hong Kong’s governance system, adding that China won’t allow anyone to challenge the “One China” policy.
The United States condemned the "unjustified use of force" in Hong Kong and called on Beijing to protect Hong Kong's freedom, a senior official in President Donald Trump's administration said on Sunday.
"We condemn the unjustified use of force and urge all sides to refrain from violence and engage in constructive dialogue," the senior US official said.
"As the President has said, the United States expects Beijing to honour its commitments under the Sino-British joint declaration and to protect Hong Kong's freedom, legal system and democratic way of life," the official said.
The chaotic scenes came as Hong Kong braced itself for yet more disruption after protests left the city paralysed much of last week. The Cross-Harbour Tunnel, a main artery linking Kowloon with Hong Kong Island, was closed as the Monday morning commute began due to damage to the administration building and toll booths, the Transport Department said.
On Sunday, a police officer was shot in the calf by an arrow as anti-government protesters, many of them students, responded to police with salvos of petrol bombs and bricks hurled by home-made catapults.
Scores of protesters were injured, some with scalding burns from chemicals in the jets fired from the water cannon.