Dozens of pro-democracy protesters remained holed up inside a besieged Hong Kong university campus for a fourth straight day on Wednesday as supporters took up online calls to disrupt the city’s train network in a bid to distract police.
The violent standoff between demonstrators and police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) rippled overseas, with the United Nations calling for a peaceful resolution to the siege, while the US senate passed new legislation supporting protesters’ demands.
After nearly six months of increasingly savage anti-China protests the epicentre has shifted to the PolyU campus, a stone’s throw from the city’s harbour, where hardcore protesters have repelled riot police with Molotov cocktails (a bottle filled with flaming liquid), bricks and arrows.
A protester practises shooting with bow and arrow at the besieged Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China, November 20, 2019
The young protester looks for police at the besieged Hong Kong Polytechnic University
A 15-year-old holdout armed with bow and arrow who identified himself as William said: ‘Never give up, I don’t ever give up. Yes, I will fight until the end.
‘But… it’s very dangerous, because when you use the bow, the police must shoot you, with some unknown bullets. Maybe real bullets.’
Protesters at PolyU said around 50 of their number remained after hundreds had fled deteriorating conditions and following official warnings that police may fire live rounds to clear the area.
A gymnasium used by protesters as a dormitory is seen inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the Hung Hom district of Hong Kong on November 20, 2019
Anti-government protesters rest in the gymnasium at the besieged Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam called Tuesday for the protesters to surrender, adding that those over 18 would face rioting charges, but minors would not be arrested.
The standoff has been the most intense and prolonged in nearly six months of unrest that began over a now-shelved bill to allow extraditions to China, which revived fears that Beijing was cutting into the city’s freedoms.
Millions of angry citizens hit the streets in a movement that quickly snowballed into wider calls for free elections and an inquiry into alleged police brutality, demands that Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leaders have rebuffed.
Protester is seen with a vest of fire lighters in Hong Kong Polytechnic University on the fourth day of a stand-off with police in Hong Kong
Protesters walk in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on the fourth day of a stand-off with police in Hong Kong, China, 20 November 2019
Exhausted bands of youths continued to wander the campus, preparing Molotov cocktails while some slept on a gym floor.
Others were medically evacuated on gurneys overnight, and on Wednesday before dawn AFP journalists watched as police chased down and arrested around a dozen students making a break for it.
Police said that since the siege began around 800 people had left the campus as of late Tuesday night.
A statue, decorated with a yellow helmet and mask by anti-government protesters, is surrounded by garbage inside the student union building at the besieged Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China, November 20
The UN human rights office was watching the university situation with ‘deepening concern’, spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.
While acknowledging the ‘deep-seated grievances’ of protesters, he also condemned the ‘extreme violence’ used by some demonstrators and called on authorities to seek a peaceful resolution.
A ‘Blossom Everywhere’ strategy of disruptive vandalism lasting more than a week has brought much of the city’s transport network to a standstill and shuttered schools.
A man is evacuated by medics past charred debris from the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019
Medical staff help a protester leaving from Hong Kong Polytechnic University on the fourth day of a stand-off with police in Hong Kong, China, 20 November 2019
Police detain protesters and students after they tried to flee outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in the Hung Hom district on November 19, 2019
A police siege of the campus stretched through a third day and China sent fresh signals that its patience with nearly six months of unrest was running out
A policeman speaks with unwell and injured protesters as they prepare to leave the campus of the University
Injured protesters wrapped in emergency thermal blankets leave the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the Hung Hom district on November 19, 2019
A dwindling number of exhausted pro-democracy protesters barricaded inside the Hong Kong university defied warnings on November 19 to surrender
Unwell and injured protesters wrapped in emergency thermal blankets wait to take ambulances to leave the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the Hung Hom district of Hong Kong
Some of the busiest subway lines were disrupted yet again on Wednesday, with huge queues of commuters forming as protesters reportedly blocked train doors from closing.
Appeals also circulated online calling for citizens to use their lunch breaks to take to the streets. The midday actions began last week and were met in some places with tear gas.
The city’s education bureau reopened primary and secondary schools on Wednesday after a suspension that began last week. Kindergartens remain closed.
But local media reported that masked students at one school barricaded road access to the facility, provoking scuffles with local residents and forcing riot police to disperse the students, arresting some.
Petrol bombs made by protesters sit at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on the fourth day of a stand-off with police in Hong Kong, China, 20 November 2019
Protesters are seen in the canteen at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on the fourth day of a stand-off with police in Hong Kong, China, 20 November 2019
A protester sleeps in the canteen of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Hong Kong is in its sixth month of mass protests, which were originally triggered by a now withdrawn extradition bill, and have since turned into a wider pro-democracy movement
Food left over by a protester is seen on a mat on the floor inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
China has repeatedly condemned protesters as violent criminals and rejected any foreign criticism.
But the US Senate on Tuesday unanimously adopted new legislation threatening to revoke the favourable trade status that the semi-autonomous Chinese territory enjoys with the United States if its freedoms are quashed.
Lawmakers also approved a measure that would ban the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and other equipment used by Hong Kong security forces.
A group of protesters talk on the steps of a campus building inside Polytechnic University of Hong Kong besieged by police in Hong Kong, China, 20 November 2019
A protester looks for an escape route out the besieged Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China, November 20, 2019
Scenes at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on the fourth day of a stand-off with police
Beijing shot back on Wednesday, warning of ‘strong countermeasures’ if the bill becomes law, and summoning acting US charge d’affaires William Klein to lodge a ‘strong protest.’
Hong Kong is due on Sunday to hold district elections to its legislature, half of which is directly elected while the other half is stacked with pro-Beijing lawmakers.
But Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung warned Wednesday that further violence could ‘ruin’ the chances of holding the polls, in which China-aligned candidates are expected to take a drubbing.
A view of a petrol bomb making area by protesters in Hong Kong Polytechnic University
A protester stands beside walls with graffiti in Hong Kong Polytechnic University on the fourth day of a stand-off with police in Hong Kong, China, 20 November 2019
The slogan ‘Never Surrender’ is spray painted on a wall in the besieged Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China, November 20, 2019
What is happening in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong protesters are demanding democratic reforms and the complete withdraw of a law bill that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China to stand trial. Protesters are pictured waving their phones in a demonstration on August 28
Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of anti-government protests for more than five months.
The demonstrations were initially sparked by a proposed law that would allow some criminal suspects to be sent to the mainland China to stand trial.
Hong Kong is ruled under the ‘one country, two system’ policy and has different legal and governing systems to mainland China.
The principle was agreed upon by China and the UK before the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
However, many residents in the semi-autonomous city feel that their freedoms are eroding due to the tight political grip of Beijing.
The extradition bill was suspended indefinitely by the government in June, but the rallies have morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that calls for government reforms and universal suffrage, among others.
Protesters are also demanding an independent inquiry into what they view as excessive violence from the police during clashes.
Mass rallies, sometimes attended by as many as two million people, have taken place every weekend since June 9.
Protesters have targeted government buildings, Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong, shopping centres and international airport to express their demands.
The demonstrations often start with a peaceful march or sit-in and end up in violent clashes between activists and police.
A repeated pattern sees activists throwing items such as bricks and petrol bombs at the police and anti-riot officers firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
More than 4,000 people have been detained so far in connection to the unrest. Among them, 39.3 per cent are students.
Beijing has described the situation in Hong Kong the ‘worst crisis’ the city has seen since its handover in 1997. It has also called some activists ‘rioters’ and ‘political terrorists’.
The city’s chief executive Carrie Lam on September 4 promised to formally withdraw the extradition bill, but the move failed to ease the chaos.
She is yet to satisfy the protesters’ other demands.
On October 4, Lam invoked colonial-era emergency powers to ban protesters from wearing masks during rallies in a further bid to quell the unrest.
The extradition bill was formally withdrawn by the city’s government on October 23.