Escape from PolyU: Protesters climb down ropes to waiting motorbikes as siege wears on

Protesters lower themselves down a rope from a bridge to a highway to escape from Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus and from police on Nov. 18, 2019. Photo via AFP.
Protesters lower themselves down a rope from a bridge to a highway to escape from Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus and from police on Nov. 18, 2019. Photo via AFP.

Dozens of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters dramatically escaped the two-day police siege at Polytechnic University late last night by shimmying down ropes from a bridge to waiting motorbikes.

Clashes rumbled into the early hours of Tuesday between protesters and police, who for hours yesterday thwarted protesters’ attempts to escape with volley after volley of tear gas and rubber bullets as more protesters gathered elsewhere in an attempt to divert manpower from the scene. The university siege has become a battle of wills between Hong Kong’s stretched police force and the constantly innovating protest movement.

Late on Monday, dozens of black-clad protesters on a footbridge slithered down ropes several meters to a road below, where they were whisked away on motorbikes.

In an apparently coordinated effort, tens of thousands of Hongkongers streamed towards the PolyU campus to break the siege, as clashes simultaneously raged with police nearby in Kowloon.

The daring escape didn’t go off without a hitch, however. Reports said that at least one protester fell while attempting to climb down to the flyover below, sustaining a serious injury to his leg.

As soon as police discovered the escape, they responded with tear gas, with some protesters firing arrows back in return, according to RTHK.

Several dozen people remained on the campus, one protester told AFP, although a number of minors were allowed to leave after negotiations with lawmakers.

RTHK reports that dozens of injured protesters were also allowed to be taken away by paramedics, but had to give their information to police before being permitted to go.

A new phase of violence and drama began last week as protesters shifted their focus to weekday disruptions, resulting in schools closed, train lines disrupted and major roads blocked by barricades.

Both China and the local government have refused to budge on any of the protesters’ demands.

The United States said on Monday that Hong Kong authorities bear the “primary responsibility for bringing calm” to the city.

Both Washington and the European Union urged restraint from all sides and called for an inquiry into the use of force during the protests.

Earlier in the day, police had made dozens of arrests as protesters made a dash for it — sometimes beating people with batons as they held them on the ground, or kicking their heads.

“Other than coming out to surrender, I don’t see any viable option for them,” Cheuk Hau-yip, the police commander in Hong Kong’s Kowloon West district, told a press conference, before the daring breakout.

The campus has been designated a “riot” zone — a charge of rioting carries up to 10 years in prison — and Cheuk reiterated that police will use live rounds against protesters if faced with deadly weapons.

Desperation deepened overnight inside the campus, where exhausted and scared mainly young protesters rationed their remaining food and bottled water.

“I will run but never surrender. I don’t want to get arrested,” said a protester who gave his name only as ‘W’.

“We are like rats in a trap.”

Meanwhile, protests erupted in several other parts of the Kowloon peninsula, with makeshift barricades across normally bustling shopping streets.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons at groups who had gathered in the Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok areas, where they also made a number of arrests.


Additional reporting by Coconuts HK.

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