600 surrender, but nearly 100 diehards hold out in PolyU siege

Top News | Staff reporters 20 Nov 2019

About 100 diehard activists remained holed up in Polytechnic University last night after at least 600 - mostly teenagers - quit the campus occupation on its third day and left under police supervision.

About 280 of them were injured and sent to 12 public hospitals.

Many decided to give up after a meeting with pro-establishment heavyweight Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, University of Hong Kong legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming and PolyU council chairman Lam Tai-fai late on Monday.

Youngsters aged under 18 were later allowed to leave with school principals after being photographed and their details taken by police. Those aged 18 or above were arrested on the spot.

Former Legislative Council president Tsang, Cheung and Lam had headed into the besieged Hung Hom campus along with former Independent Police Complaints Council member Edwin Cheng Shing-lung, education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen and dozens of secondary school headmasters.

Cheung told protesters inside the campus that if they left peacefully they would not face violence by police. He also offered a legal reading of their situation.

"For me, walking out is not surrender," he said. "You can leave safely."

On arrests, Cheung said he would ask police what evidence such action was being based on, but "at this stage we can't stop arrests."

And Tsang added that the group would ensure that those willing to leave "will be treated properly. When police are carrying out necessary procedures for them they will not be treated rudely, and their rights will be under legal protection."

Some of the negotiating group then walked from the campus at 1am yesterday with nearly 100 occupiers and accompanied them to a police station.

Then, at about 2am, PolyU president Teng Jin-guang arrived at the campus and urged protesters to leave.

He returned to the campus at 3.30pm to repeat his "leave peacefully" plea and spoke of "seeing a dawn" in the matter being resolved.

This was as occupiers continued to leave in small groups or singly throughout the morning and afternoon.

A message also went to police at this time for officers to hold back so people had a chance to leave in a peaceful and orderly manner.

An hour later, Democratic Party legislator Ted Hui Chi-fung, who had stayed at the campus from Sunday night, left with about 20 protesters.

He said fewer than 100 protesters remained in the campus by then.

Police had said at 3pm that about 1,100 people had been arrested or had their identity information taken in the vicinity of PolyU.

Around 600 - most of whom were not PolyU students - had left voluntarily. They included many under 18s and 47 PolyU academic staff who had been protesting.

According to Teddy Tang Chun-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, around 320 under 18s had left the campus and gone home.

Police also offered more details of the action, saying 400 were arrested for offenses including taking part in a riot, arson and possession of offensive weapon. And about 100 people described by police as hardcore radicals had managed to escape by rappeling from a bridge and fleeing on waiting motorcyclists and in vehicles on Monday night. But police said they had arrested 37 people swinging down from the bridge and some drivers.

Others tried to escape through a drainage tunnel.

That required firemen and emergency personnel pulling a few people from the drain.

A dozen people were thought to be missing below, but firemen did not find anyone after a two-hour search.

The last 20 or so volunteer first-aiders left the campus last night.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she had agreed with police to resolve the PolyU situation peacefully.

She also told the new commissioner of police, Chris Tang Ping-keung, to treat the injured and the under 18s humanely.

"This objective can only be achieved with the full cooperation of the protesters, including the rioters," she said before an Executive Council meeting yesterday morning.

"They have to stop violence, give up their weapons and come out peacefully."

Lam also said several universities had been "occupied by rioters" and it was shocking that campuses were turned into "armories" where many weapons, including petrol bombs, were made.

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