Trapped radicals fail to blast their way out

More than 400 protesters and hardcore rioters used petrol bombs and other weapons as they tried to flee the police siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. As the siege enters its third day, police are aiming to catch hardcore rioters who have been holed up in the campus since...

Staff reporter

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

More than 400 protesters and hardcore rioters used petrol bombs and other weapons as they tried to flee the police siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

As the siege enters its third day, police are aiming to catch hardcore rioters who have been holed up in the campus since Saturday.

Police earlier said the violent activities in PolyU have escalated to rioting. Anyone who stays behind or assists rioters may be liable to "taking part in a riot."

Of more than 600 people trapped in the campus yesterday morning, nearly 300 of them were arrested when they tried to escape. Some injured people also left.

The fierce confrontation began on Saturday night. Rioters hurled petrol bombs and shot arrows at the junction of Austin Road and Chatham Road South, and set fire on footbridges above the Cross Harbour Tunnel. Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and sponge rounds.

They also sprayed blue liquid from water cannon trucks and charged protesters with armored vehicles.

They guarded the perimeter of the campus carrying AR-15 assault rifles.

But rioters said they would resist until the end. Some said they would put up a final fight and had already written their last wills.

Food is limited in the campus, with protesters finding instant noodles in the university canteen sufficient for one to two days.

Protesters attempted to escape the campus at least three times at 8am, noon and 1.30pm, but all failed when police drove them back with volleys of tear gas and water cannon.

Another group of almost 100 dashed out to Cheong Wan Road at 2pm, but some were arrested.

At about 7.30pm, about 10 injured protesters surrendered to police.

Officers drew their service revolvers and pointed them at protesters who rushed past the Cross Harbour Tunnel bus station area to enter the university. Pepper balls were shot. Most retreated into the campus while some were arrested.

Police also advanced to the university's entrance and made arrests at around 5am, while rioters hit back with petrol bombs. In another attempt to escape at 9pm, protesters rappelled to the street but were spotted by the police who drove them back. Three or four managed to escape after being "rescued" by scores of motorcyclists.

Earlier at about 7pm, police played songs including local singers Hacken Lee Hak-kan's Farewell to Campus and Eason Chan Yick-shun's Ambush from All Sides as reminders for the remnants to surrender.

In yesterday's police press conference, regional commander of Kowloon West Cheuk Hau-yip said police will continue the cordon and persuade rioters inside to come out and surrender.

He also told them not to "push their luck" as police have the ability and resolve to end the standoff peacefully.

"These rioters, they are also criminals. They have to face the consequences of their acts," he said. "Other than coming out to surrender, I don't see at the moment any viable option for them."

Police also said early in the morning about 20 protesters tried to escape by jumping onto tracks at Hung Hom station. More than 10 were arrested.

A PolyU spokesman said the university has met with deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) Siu Chak-yee and expressed their concerns. The university told police that, regardless of the actions carried out by police, personal safety of all people must be taken into account.

At 4pm, PolyU council chairman Lam Tai-fai tried to get into the university campus but failed. He requested the police commander at the scene to talk to him but he was stopped 30 to 40 meters away from the police cordon.

According to student unionists inside the university, at least three people suffered serious eye injuries and 40 people were hit by water cannons and had hypothermia, PolyU student union president Derek Liu Kin-kwan said.

He believed about two-thirds of people are PolyU students, while about 100 protesters who wanted to save those trapped in the campus got into the university from Chatham Road South and Austin Road.

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung who also stayed in the campus from Sunday night, said some suffered fractures after being hit by police batons, but no ambulancemen can enter the campus.

Police called upon people to leave on a designated route and abandon violence.

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