Hundreds of people gathered outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University last night to demand an end to the week-long police siege of the campus.
Although the vast majority of protesters and students have left the Hung Hom campus, some more dramatically than others, few dozen protesters and students are still believed to be inside the campus, with police firm in their insistence that anyone who wishes to leave the campus can only do so by surrendering — either being arrested on the spot, or having their details taken down to potentially face future rioting charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.
RTHK reports that hundreds have already been arrested on suspicion of rioting since the siege began there on Nov. 17.
Riding high on the pro-democracy camp’s landslide victory in Sunday’s district council elections, dozens of newly-minted pro-dem councillors-elect gathered in Tsim Sha Tsui starting around 4pm for a rally to demand an end to the police siege.
The councillors had initially planned march towards PolyU from Centenary Garden, but police would only allow five district councillors to go inside the university to talk to those still inside, while everyone else would head to Government House to urge the authorities to end the siege.
But despite the memo from Gary Fan — a Sai Kung district councillor, lawmaker, and one of the five who went into campus — that only five people would be allowed in, hundreds of people still advanced on PolyU, but were stopped by riot police, albeit without the kind of confrontations that have characterized recent protests.
Videos and photos from last night show crowds of people had gathered at a police cordon on Science Museum Road, with people chanting “release them,” and “enter PolyU, save the comrades.”
It seems that the pro dem camp does not have a clear plan about what to do about #PolyU. While lawmaker Gary Fan said just now five would be allowed in. Lester Shum said the point was to ask police to leave. Now the crowd is at police cordon on Science Museum Road. pic.twitter.com/YDQGZlSdBT
— Xinqi Su 蘇昕琪 (@XinqiSu) November 25, 2019
Later in the evening, as hundreds remained outside the campus, commander Ho Yun-sing of the Yau Tsim police district told reporters that they planned to enter the campus at some point, along with independent mediators and medics, to ask holdouts to leave, adding that no immediate arrests would be made, and that the priority would be to ensure the safety and health of those inside.
Indeed, the situation on the campus has become increasingly grim, with a Reuters report from inside painting a picture today of fetid, trash-strewn facilities; dwindling supplies; and haggard, fearful, emotionally frayed protesters.
Last night’s protest ultimately dispersed peacefully, marking a departure from weeks of previous protests which have seen intense clashes between police and protesters, typically resulting barrages of tear gas and rubber bullets.