'Jail' feel as it's back to school at PolyU

Local | Cindy Wan 14 Jan 2020

The badly damaged Polytechnic University finally began a new semester yesterday, with new security turnstiles, but there are still vivid reminders of the fierce 13-day siege in November.

With all entrances under guard, students and staff members needed to tap their cards at the entrances at blocks A and Y, while visitors and those who forgot to bring cards are required to register before being allowed in.

The new security measures came after the Hung Hom campus settled down from the siege of November 17-29 when police trapped hundreds of protesters who turned it into a base to block the entrance of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

A student said it was like "entering a jail" with all the new security arrangements.

Owan Li, a student representative on the university council, said 5,000 signatures have been collected so far opposing the turnstiles.

Li said queues appeared at the turnstiles, bringing inconvenience to students and staff. PolyU is located in the city center, and closing off the campus dislocates it from the rest of the community, he added.

Lectures will resume next month after all examinations of the previous semesters are held.

More than 90 percent of the facilities that had been vandalized or damaged have been fixed, but some offices in block A were still closed for further cleaning to remove tear gas residues.

The English, engineering and nursing departments at block GA were moved temporarily, pending maintenance.

The footbridge connecting blocks Y and Z, where protesters fled by shimmying down ropes on November 19, remains closed. Ropes, helmets and umbrellas left behind by the fleeing students remain on the footbridge.

The footbridge structure has been found to be safe, but the burnt wooden flooring has not been replaced as the university is still sourcing materials from Europe.

People going to block Z would have to leave campus and walk through a subway on Chatham Road South.

The footbridge connecting the Hung Hom MTR station to the school is still closed, with its walls blackened by burn marks.

The library had some of the lifts and furniture damaged due to a flood.

Only the fourth and fifth floors are readily available for use, with book-fetching service available to help readers get books from other floors.

All kitchenware in the canteen at block VA has been replaced, but some students said they cannot get over images of maggots inside food during the police lockdown of the university.

The university sterilized all the utensils and cooking tools and hired experts to check bacteria levels in the water supply to ensure the canteen meets hygiene standards.

The vandalized Starbucks remains boarded up.

The House of Innovation - a glass house for exhibitions - is shut as its damaged glass facade has yet to be repaired.

The cordon lines were lifted after a week and five days.

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