Police besiege Hong Kong university campus in pursuit of protesters
HONG KONG, Kyodo – Hong Kong police on Monday morning broke up barricades set up on roads leading to a university in the Kowloon area, forcing hundreds of protesters to retreat into the campus following a day of clashes.
The police siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the Hung Hom district followed a night of confrontation in which anti-government protesters hurled petrol bombs and bricks at police, while the police fired tear gas and deployed a water cannon truck and an armored vehicle to disperse the crowd.
“Fires were observed in various locations on the PolyU premises,” the police said in a statement. “Explosives, flammable substances and dangerous goods also pose threats to anyone therein. Police appeal to everyone inside the campus to leave immediately.”
As the police surrounded the campus, a footbridge connecting the campus and the nearby Hung Hom train station, and a barricade set up at the university entrance were set on fire between Sunday night and Monday morning to stop the police from entering.
The police denied storming the Polytechnic University campus on Monday morning, saying they were conducting a “dispersal and arrest” operation. Public service broadcaster RTHK reported that the police fired tear gas at protesters who were trying to leave the campus.
At least nine protesters who fled to a nearby park and dozens of others who apparently wanted to support protesters inside the campus have been arrested, local media said.
RTHK said 24 people were injured, four of them severely, in a clash between the police and protesters on Monday.
Ken Wu, a university student union representative who is among the protesters inside the campus, said some of the roughly 500 protesters who remain inside the campus have developed rashes or are suffering hypothermia from the water cannon and need medical attention, according to the RTHK report.
The Cross-Harbour Tunnel near the university, which is one of three major tunnels connecting to Hong Kong Island and has been blocked by protesters since Wednesday, remained closed to traffic.
The United States condemned the “unjustified use of force” in Hong Kong and called on the Chinese government to protect the territory's freedom, Reuters reported, citing a senior U.S. official.
“We condemn the unjustified use of force and urge all sides to refrain from violence and engage in constructive dialogue, the official was quoted as saying Sunday.
The protests sparked by a now-withdrawn bill that sought to allow extraditions to mainland China have been ongoing since June, presenting the Hong Kong government with its biggest challenge yet since the handover.
The protesters' demands have widened to include a probe into alleged police brutality, pardons for arrested protesters and democratic reform. (Kyodo)