Hong Kong police enter ransacked Poly University campus after protest siege

Officers from a bomb disposal unit search the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, on Nov 28, 2019.
Officers from a bomb disposal unit search the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, on Nov 28, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Police officers search for any remaining protesters hiding at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, on Nov 28, 2019.
Police officers search for any remaining protesters hiding at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, on Nov 28, 2019.PHOTO: AFP
A masked protester speaks to the media at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong late on Nov 27, 2019.
A masked protester speaks to the media at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong late on Nov 27, 2019.PHOTO: AFP
A member of a safety team established by Hong Kong authorities sorts through items left by protesters at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Nov 28, 2019.
A member of a safety team established by Hong Kong authorities sorts through items left by protesters at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Nov 28, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP, AP) - Hong Kong police on Thursday (Nov 28) entered a ransacked university campus where the authorities faced off for days with barricaded pro-democracy protesters, looking for petrol bombs and other dangerous materials left over from the occupation.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University became the epicentre of the territory’s increasingly violent protest movement when clashes broke out on Nov 17 between police and protesters armed with bows and arrows as well as Molotov cocktails. 

The stand-off settled into a tense stalemate during which hundreds fled the campus – some making daring escapes, others caught and beaten by officers during failed breakouts – leaving a dwindling core of holdouts surrounded by police cordons. 

But in recent days, the last few people barricaded in the campus seemed to disappear. 

University staff said they were only able to find a single protester on campus and reporters there struggled to see any major presence in the last 48 hours. 

Late on Wednesday, a lone masked man spoke to reporters inside the campus saying some 20 protesters remained. 

The protester, who identified himself as Ah Bong, says the holdouts are hiding as they do not trust the police.

He warned they'll "definitely protest" if police enter the campus.

But there was no sign of them on Thursday morning when police and firefighters moved in, 11 days after the siege began, for what was billed as an operation to secure dangerous objects now littering the once-placid campus and to collect evidence. 


Police and firefighting personnel move Molotov cocktails, flammable materials and liquids into a corner, inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), on Nov 28, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

Riot police in tactical gear began gathering dozens of discarded petrol bombs and bottles of chemicals that had been looted from the university laboratories.

Explosives experts went from room to room followed by a gaggle of reporters, passing walls daubed with graffiti insulting the city’s police force and calling for greater freedoms under Chinese rule. 

 
 
 
 

The university now faces a mammoth clean-up operation.

Swathes of the red-brick campus just a stone’s throw from the city’s famous harbour resemble an abandoned battleground covered in debris, barricades and the shattered bottles of Molotov cocktails. 

A foul odour from rotting food in a canteen and overflowing garbage bins permeated parts of the campus. 

On Wednesday, university leaders called for the police to end their siege and for the government to help with the disposal of dangerous materials.

 Hong Kongers have protested in huge numbers over the last six months, fuelled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out the city’s liberties.

Violence spiralled as Beijing and local leaders refused major concessions and the police were used to break up rallies on a daily basis.

Beijing and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam have argued that a “silent majority” still supports the establishment and abhors the increased violence of radical protesters.

But that narrative was undermined by community-level council elections on Sunday, which saw a landslide win for pro-democracy candidates across the city.