Safety first for returning PolyU studentsLocal | 13 Jan 2020 3:31 pm
Polytechnic University started its second semester of the year today after fixing the facilities that were damaged during fiery clashes between protesters and police in November, RTHK reports.
After fierce battles, police laid siege to the campus in Hung Hom for nearly a fortnight to force those trapped inside to surrender. The university regained control of the premises on November 29.
As the campus welcomed students back, the changes were evident. Students and staff now need to show their identity cards and go through turnstiles to enter the campus.
Most of the pro-democracy graffiti sprayed in key areas of the campus have been cleaned up, though some scars remain. Soot-covered walls were visible in areas which were still cordoned off.
The authorities said most of the areas that were damaged when police fired hundreds of tear gas canisters and protesters threw a similar number of petrol-bombs, have been fixed.
But some facilities that were vandalised, including the House of Innovation, some footbridges, teaching and office buildings, are still under repair.
Not many books in the library were damaged, but furniture, carpets, ceiling and CCTV cameras need to be replaced, authorities said. Some lifts which were flooded also remain out of order.
A canteen inside the campus which was featured in a lot of social media footage during the siege has resumed functioning. Footage of rubbish piling up and even maggots inside the facility came out on social media as police shut down the campus and hundreds of people came out to be detained or released after handing over their personal details to the police.
The canteen bore no resemblance to those unhygienic scenes. The authorities said they had cleaned up and disinfected the place and even ran bacterial tests before reopening. The kitchen utilities were left unharmed and only a few chairs were damaged, they said.
The glass covering of the House of Innovation was smashed during the siege and scaffolding has been erected around it as repair work is underway.
A bridge from where some protesters abseiled out of the campus also remain off limits. Authorities said there is a two-metre long “hole” that they have to fix before it can be used.
The authorities had conducted tests on soil and air contamination for tear gas residue and other toxins as police say they recovered a large quantity of petrol bombs and other dangerous goods along with weapons like bows and arrows from the campus.
But some people who came to the campus today still chose to wear face masks. They said they were concerned about a flu that is spreading in Wuhan, and also about possible tear gas residue.
“I am afraid of the flu that is currently happening around Hong Kong and near the China area. Secondly, I am afraid that some sort of gas or poison that is left around the campus area, therefore I want to protect myself furthermore,” said first year student Ivan.
“Of course, those findings are some professional findings by the school. However for my own safety, I would just add one more layer of protection,” he said.