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Dozens hold out in besieged Hong Kong campus

November 20, 2019

Dozens of anti-government protesters are still holed up inside a Hong Kong university after hundreds had fled deteriorating conditions. Authorities have warned that police may fire live rounds to clear the area.

Mass protests in Hong Kong
Image: Reuters/T. Peter

A few dozen anti-government demonstrators remain barricaded inside Hong Kong's besieged Polytechnic University campus for a fourth straight day as the standoff between protesters and police continued on Wednesday.   

Protesters at the campus said around 50 people remained after hundreds had fled deteriorating conditions and following official warnings that police may fire live rounds to clear the area.

Read more: Hong Kong universities: a new battleground between protesters and police

Exhausted bands of youths continued to wander the campus, preparing Molotov cocktails while others slept on a gym floor.

Over the past couple of days, more than 1,000 people have been arrested, authorities said
Over the past couple of days, more than 1,000 people have been arrested, authorities saidImage: Reuters/A. Abidi

"I won't ever give up. Yes, I will fight until the end," a 15-year-old holdout armed with bow and arrow, who identified himself as William, told the AFP news agency. "But... it's very dangerous because when you use the bow, the police must shoot you, with some unknown bullets. Maybe real bullets."

Fierce clashes

In recent days, the campus has turned into the epicenter of the nearly six-month-long protest movement against Beijing. Hardcore protesters there have used Molotov cocktails, bricks and arrows to repel riot police.

Authorities, meanwhile, have set up a cordon around the campus to prevent anyone from escaping. Over the past couple of days, more than 1,000 people have been arrested and hundreds of injured treated at hospitals, authorities said.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday called for a humane end to the siege and urged protesters still in the university to surrender, adding that while those over 18 would face rioting charges, minors would not be arrested.

The protests, which have wreaked havoc across Hong Kong for months, have been escalating over the past few weeks, with university campuses witnessing fierce clashes between protesters and police. Multiple campuses across the city have been vandalized and barricaded by black-clad protesters who claim they are defending the campuses from the police. 

On Wednesday morning, there were scattered incidents of protesters stopping trains by opening emergency doors and disrupting traffic, but on a much smaller scale than last week. Some train stations remained shut because of damage from earlier protests.

Foreign pressure grows

The unrest in Hong Kong marks the most serious popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

It began with proposed legislation that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to places including mainland China for trial. But the protests later morphed into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms in the Chinese special administrative region.

The demonstrators are angry about what they see as the stifling of Hong Kong's freedoms and extensive autonomy by China's central government in Beijing.

The months-long protests have grabbed global attention, with countries like the US and the UK expressing concern over the developments in Hong Kong.

US Senate backs human rights in Hong Kong

In Washington, the US Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed the "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act," which would require the secretary of state to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special US trading consideration and would impose sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations.

Beijing condemned the US Senate's move, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, criticizing it as "blatant" interference in China's internal affairs.

Geng said the legislation "paints criminal moves as the pursuit of human rights and democracy" and accused Washington of having a "hidden political agenda" to destabilize China and Hong Kong. China will take "strong countermeasures" if the proposal becomes law, Geng said.

sri/sms (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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