Hong Kong Polytechnic University: Protesters still inside as standoff continues – [IMAGES]
(FASTNEWS | COLOMBO) – Between 100 to 200 protesters remain barricaded inside a Hong Kong university surrounded by police, as the standoff continues for a third day.
Those inside Polytechnic University are said to be running low on supplies.
Protesters have been inside the campus since last week, initially stopping police from entering by lighting fires and throwing petrol bombs.
But police have since said they would be arrested for rioting, leaving some too scared to leave.
Tensions could be further inflamed by China condemning a decision by Hong Kong’s high court to overturn a ban on face-masks.
On Sunday night, police warned protesters they had until 22:00 (14:00 GMT) to leave the campus, saying they could use live ammunition if the attacks continued.
Police later moved in, surrounding the campus, leading to protesters throwing petrol bombs and firing rocks from catapults.
On Monday, dozens of protesters were arrested by police officers as they attempted to run from the campus. A small group managed to leave using rope ladders before being picked up by motorcycles.
Those arrested could be charged with rioting, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
The violence at PolyU is one of the biggest flare-ups Hong Kong has seen since protests broke out in June.
The mostly young protesters have five key demands including an investigation into police brutality and universal suffrage.
But underpinning it all is the fear Hong Kong’s unique identity is threatened by China.
What is happening today?
An estimated 100 to 200 protesters still remain in PolyU, authorities have said.
But a handful of protesters have been trickling out of the university, some suffering from hypothermia and leg injuries, according to news site SCMP.
One protester said he decided to come out due to “hunger and cold”, adding that many inside were “hurt without enough medical supplies”.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui had earlier said protesters did not have enough supplies to “last another day”.
Another 16-year-old protester told Reuters that she chose to “surrender”.
“We have been trying to escape since yesterday morning. But then we couldn’t find a way out [and] were afraid of being charged,” she said. “This is the only way… I was quite desperate.”
A total of 600 protesters have now left the campus, according to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, more than 200 students below the age of 18 left, accompanied by various education officials, including high school principals.
Those under the age of 18 had their identities recorded and were let go. Adults were arrested.
Ms Lam called on all protesters to surrender, saying no violence would happen if they came “out in a peaceful manner”.
However, she said police would have to take “necessary action” if that changed.
Separately on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s new police chief took office.
Chris Tang said the force was not able to end the protests alone, saying the unrest would only end if society condemned the violence.
What’s this about face masks?
Hong Kong had previously banned protesters from wearing face masks – but this was deemed “unconstitutional” by the city’s high court on Monday.
But now China has come out and condemned the high court’s decision. It says it has the sole authority to rule on constitutional matters in the region – it is unclear what action, if any, China might take next.
This is a large part of what the on-going protests in Hong Kong are about.
Hong Kong is a part of China and many in the city fear that its freedoms – including judicial independence – are slowly being eroded.
How did we get here?
Campuses had remained relatively free of violence during the Hong Kong protests – despite the movement being led mainly by students and young people.
But after the death of a 22-year-old student, that changed.
Last week, the Chinese University of Hong Kong became a battleground.
Police say protesters threw petrol bombs on a major road near the university in an effort to stop traffic. Officers attempted to reclaim the road, leading to major clashes.
The university then cancelled all classes for the rest of the term. Days later, protesters at PolyU also tried to block access to a key tunnel near the university.
Protests have also been held at other locations in Hong Kong.
Why are there protests in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong – a British colony until 1997 – is part of China under a model known as “one country, two systems”.
Under this model, it has a high degree of autonomy and people have freedoms unseen in mainland China.
The protests started in June after the government planned to pass a bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Many feared this would undermine the city’s freedoms and judicial independence.
The bill was eventually withdrawn, but the demonstrations continued, having evolved into a broader protest against alleged police brutality, and the way Hong Kong is administered by Beijing.