Hong Kong university stand-off continues as some injured protesters allowed to leave campus

HONG KONG (The Straits Times/ANN) - The stand-off between anti-government protesters barricaded inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and riot police continued without a resolution into the early hours of Tuesday (Nov 19).

The stand-off between anti-government protesters barricaded inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and riot police continued without a resolution into the early hours of Tuesday (Nov 19).

About 40 injured protesters were allowed to leave the campus to get treatment, although they might still face charges later, South China Morning Post reported.

Others, except for accredited journalists, were told they would be arrested once they stepped out.

SCMP quoted a police source as saying that those who surrendered without a fight could expect lenient punishment, but all protesters inside had to answer to the law.

Clashes erupted on Monday as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to force back protesters trying to escape the university where hundreds are holed up.

Dozens inside the campus managed to escape by abseiling down to a highway from a campus footbridge. They were picked up by vehicles.

Chief superintendent of the police public relations branch Kwok Ka Chuen described PolyU as "a weapon factory" and "a refuge for extremely violent rioters".

"We also received a report from PolyU that several toxic and dangerous chemicals had been stolen from the laboratory. Among the stolen chemicals were highly volatile explosives. We must warn that the university campus has become a powder keg where danger is far beyond what we can estimate," he said on Monday.

Universities became the new battlegrounds in Hong Kong's anti-government movement following the Nov 8 death of computer science undergraduate Alex Chow Tsz Lok. The 22-year-old was the first student death directly linked to the protests that have gripped the city the past six months.

The worsening political crisis could endanger the coming district polls on Sunday.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip said on Monday that latest events have "reduced the chance" of the government being able to hold district council elections on Sunday. "I must say that postponing the elections is a difficult decision to make and we will not take this step unless absolutely necessary."

Chief Executive Carrie Lam held a weekly press briefing on Tuesday morning.

All schools and kindergartens for children with special needs in Hong Kong will close again on Tuesday, in a shutdown that started last Thursday amid transport chaos and safety concerns.

Classes will resume for primary schools, secondary schools and some special schools on Wednesday, the Education Bureau said in a statement. But kindergartens, schools for children with physical disability and schools for children with intellectual disability will remain suspended until Sunday.

The escalating tension between protesters and police came as Hong Kong appointed a new police chief. Mr Chris Tang Ping Keung replaces Mr Stephen Lo Wai Chung as Commissioner of Police with effect from Tuesday. Mr Lo is retiring after serving the Hong Kong Police Force for 35 years.

The United States expressed grave concern over the deepening political unrest and violence in Hong Kong, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the city's government to take clear steps to address public concerns.

Speaking at a rare media briefing on Monday, Pompeo also said the Chinese Communist Party must honour its promises to the people of Hong Kong in terms of freedoms and liberties.

"The Hong Kong government bears primary responsibility for bringing calm to Hong Kong," Pompeo said.

Meanwhile, China's top legislature said Hong Kong courts have no power to rule on the constitutionality of the city's legislation with regards to Basic Law, according to state media outlet Xinhua.

The statement comes one day after the city's High Court vetoed down a ban on wearing face masks during public demonstrations.

The Hong Kong government invoked a colonial-era emergency law in October banning faced masks commonly used by protesters.


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