Volunteer medical workers gather up supplies inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. About 100 anti-government protesters remained holed up at a Hong Kong university Tuesday, their choices dwindling along with their food supplies as they braced for the endgame in a police siege of the campus that entered its third day. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Volunteer medical workers gather up supplies inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. About 100 anti-government protesters remained holed up at a Hong Kong university Tuesday, their choices dwindling along with their food supplies as they braced for the endgame in a police siege of the campus that entered its third day. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Police surround last holdouts at Hong Kong university

About 600 had left by Tuesday morning, city leader Carrie Lam said, leaving an estimated 100 still inside

About 100 anti-government protesters remained holed up at a Hong Kong university Tuesday, their choices dwindling along with their food supplies as they braced for the endgame in a police siege of the campus that entered its third day.

Police were waiting them out after 10 days of some of the most intense protests the city has seen in more than five months of often-violent unrest gripping the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Over the past day, more than 1,000 people were arrested and hundreds of injured treated at hospitals, authorities said.

The government has stood firm, rejecting most of the protesters’ demands, even as they shut down major roads and trains during rush hour every day last week, turned several university campuses into fortresses and blocked a major road tunnel, which remained shut Tuesday.

In Beijing, the National People’s Congress criticized the high court in Hong Kong for striking down a ban on wearing face masks at the protests, in a decree that has potentially ominous implications for Hong Kong’s vaunted rule of law and independent judiciary. China’s Communist leaders have taken a tough line on the protests and said that restoring order is the city’s highest priority.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was barred from leaving Hong Kong to go on a European speaking tour, after a court refused to change his bail conditions to let him travel.

Protesters have left all the universities except Hong Kong Polytechnic, where several hundred barricaded themselves and fought back police barrages of tear gas and water cannons with gasoline bombs, some launched from rooftop by catapult, and bows and arrows.

READ MORE: Hong Kong police storm university held by protesters

Those still at Polytechnic are the last holdouts. Surrounded, they now face arrest. Several groups have tried to escape, including one that slid down hoses from a footbridge to waiting motorcycles, but police said they intercepted 37, including the drivers, who were arrested for “assisting offenders.”

About 600 had left by Tuesday morning, city leader Carrie Lam said, leaving an estimated 100 still inside. They milled about in small groups. They still had boxes of homemade gasoline bombs, but the mood was grim in the trash-strewn plazas, in contrast to the excitement as they prepared to take on police just a few days earlier.

One protester said he had no plan and was waiting for someone to come to help. Another said he wants to leave safely but without being charged. They would not give their full names out of fear of arrest.

“We will use whatever means to continue to persuade and arrange for these remaining protesters to leave the campus as soon as possible so that this whole operation could end in a peaceful manner,” Lam told reporters after a weekly meeting with advisers.

Even as the latest bout of violence winds down, a fundamental divide suggests the protests are far from over.

City leaders say the violence must stop before meaningful dialogue can begin. The protesters say they need to keep escalating the violence to get the government to accept their demands.

The protests took off in June over a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Activists saw the legislation as part of a continuing erosion of rights and freedoms that Hong Kong was promised it could keep when Britain returned its former colony to China in 1997.

READ MORE: Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

Lam withdrew the bill after a few months, but protesters now want an independent investigation into police suppression of the demonstrations and fully democratic elections, among other demands.

About 200 of the 600 people who left Polytechnic were under 18 years old. The city agreed not to arrest them immediately, but Lam said they could face charges later.

Family members and teachers arrived sporadically Tuesday to pick up a few remaining protesters under 18, hugging their children before walking back to a police checkpoint where officers recorded names and other information before letting them go.

An ambulance team was allowed in to treat injured protesters, wrapping them in emergency blankets to keep them warm. Some left with the team, but others stayed, saying they didn’t want to be arrested.

Other parents, holding a news conference, said their children dare not surrender because the government has labeled them as rioters even though some had just gotten trapped by the police siege.

They wore masks and refused to give their names, a sign of the fear that has developed in what has become a highly polarized city.

China hinted it might overrule the Hong Kong high court ruling that struck down a ban on face masks that was aimed at preventing protesters from hiding their identity and evading arrest.

A statement from the National People’s Congress’ Legislative Affairs Commission said the decision doesn’t conform with the territory’s constitution, known as the Basic Law, or decisions by the Congress.

“We are currently studying opinions and suggestions raised by some NPC deputies,” the statement said. The announcement threatens to undercut Hong Kong’s rule of law and independent courts — major selling points for its role as an Asian financial centre.

Monday’s ruling said the ban infringes on fundamental rights more than is reasonably necessary. The ban has been widely disregarded.

The Japanese government said one of its citizens had been arrested near the Polytechnic campus. Japanese media identified him as Hikaru Ida, a student at Tokyo University of Agriculture. Officials did not say why he was arrested.

More than 1,100 people were arrested in the past day for offences including rioting and possession of offensive weapons, police said at a daily press briefing. They found more than 3,900 gasoline bombs at another university campus that was the site last week of a violent standoff. Some 235 people were treated on Tuesday for protest-related injuries, according to hospital authority figures.

Hong Kong also got a new police chief, Chris Tang, who said his priorities would include rebutting accusations against police that he called “fake news” and reassuring the public about the force’s mission.

“We have to maintain the law and order in Hong Kong and there is a massive scale of breaking of law in Hong Kong and there is a certain sector of the community that also condones those illegal activities,” he told journalists.

Tang replaces a retiring chief and was approved by Beijing after being nominated by Lam’s government.

Lam, asked whether she would seek help from Chinese troops based in Hong Kong, said her government remains confident it is able to cope with the situation.

___

Associated Press journalists Alice Fung and Dake Kang contributed to this report.

Ken Moritsugu And Andi Jatmiko, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins takes part in Secwepemc Health Caucus’s “Raising Our Spirits” ceremony Friday, Jan. 22. (Secwepemc Health Caucus Facebook image)
Secwepemc Nation raises spirits through song

More than 150 join virtual ceremony

Susan Hill with her dog Sadie enjoy a brisk walk this week at Scout Island where the lake is beginning to freeze over as overnight and daytime temperatures remain well below zero. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Overnight lows of -18C in the forecast for Williams Lake Friday

Colder temperatures will persist through the weekend and next week

Email editor@wltribune.com
LETTERS: Worship can take place outside of churches

Williams Lake city council needs to mind its own business

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Most Read