Pro-democracy politicians this afternoon called for an emergency meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to discuss the deteriorating situation at Polytechnic University, as hundreds of besieged protesters frantically tried to escape the campus, only to be beaten back by barrages of tear gas.
Lam surfaced briefly this morning to visit an injured police officer who shot with an arrow during the police’s siege of PolyU yesterday, but did not comment on the ongoing — and apparently intensifying — unrest surrounding the campus.
“We hope that we can resolve the Polytechnic University crisis sensibly and safely, and we hope that we can have an urgent meeting with [Lam] as soon as possible,” pro-democracy lawmaker Tanya Chan told reporters this afternoon, before going on to suggest possible ways to de-escalate the situation.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) November 18, 2019
“We understand that there are some underage children as well as injured persons still staying in the campus together with social workers as well as some medical helpers. We urge the government to allow them to leave the campus safely accompanied by all these necessary professionals.”
Police have called for protesters holed up in the university to “drop their weapons and dangerous items, remove their gas masks and leave via the top level of Cheong Wan Road South Bridge in an orderly manner.”
However, protesters caught attempting to escape the university have been met with barrages of tear gas and arrests.
— Jessie Pang (@JessiePang0125) November 18, 2019
Some were also seen being taken away aboard a light rail train, raising concerns among observers as to where they were being taken.
“We urge the police as well as the government to let us know where are these arrested persons [are being] taken to, because I understand that from yesterday til this morning the police have arrested over a hundred people, and it’s important to let us know whether the facilities are capable of handling all these arrested persons and whether their rights are appropriately protected,” Chan said.
Just blocks away from PolyU, protesters on Chatham Rd have set up barricades in an attempt to draw away police forces from the university, where hundreds of protesters are trapped. pic.twitter.com/9HL4vuoJIY
— Aidan Marzo 馬超昱 (@AidanMarzo) November 18, 2019
Meanwhile, protesters began pouring into the neighborhoods around the school, apparently in hopes of diverting enough police manpower to allow protesters inside to flee.
Parents of students believed to be on campus also reportedly began arriving at the scene, pleading with police with to allow their children to come out safely, only to be rebuffed.
how many parents who were 'blue' and didn't like their kids going to protests are now getting turned to the other side https://t.co/FIkyTKFwmB
— isabella steger (@stegersaurus) November 18, 2019
The situation inside the university, meanwhile, is increasingly “chaotic,” according to Derek Liu, the president of PolyU’s student union.
“We are facing challenges, and even disasters from all around the campus; the raptors and the special riot teams are all around the campus in order to wait for any of our students to start leaving campus to arrest,” he told reporters.
“I believe it is around 600 [protesters left inside] or something, so the situation is now chaotic, now [that] the supplies are cut and those staying inside the campus have no way out to seek help,” Liu added.
Protesters’ emotions are increasingly frayed, according to reports from the scene.
“We’ve been trapped here for too long. We need all Hong Kongers to know we need help,” a 19-year-old protester named Dan told Reuters, as he burst into tears. “I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this. We may need international help.”