Poly U siege nears end as protesters, medics leave - RTHK
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Poly U siege nears end as protesters, medics leave

2019-11-20 HKT 00:58
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  • Police say around 800 people – 300 of them minors – have peacefully left the Poly U campus. Photo: AP
    Police say around 800 people – 300 of them minors – have peacefully left the Poly U campus. Photo: AP
  • A lone protester stands among mats and assorted items at a gymnasium inside the university. Photo: AP
    A lone protester stands among mats and assorted items at a gymnasium inside the university. Photo: AP
  • Volunteer medics have pulled out, saying their humanitarian mission there has concluded. Photo: AP
    Volunteer medics have pulled out, saying their humanitarian mission there has concluded. Photo: AP
  • The newly-appointed Police Commissioner Chris Tang walks with anti-riot officers outside Poly U. Photo: AP
    The newly-appointed Police Commissioner Chris Tang walks with anti-riot officers outside Poly U. Photo: AP
The battle of attrition at the Polytechnic University appears to be heading to a conclusion, as a days-long police siege has left just a handful of hard core protesters still holed up inside.

The force said as of 11pm on Tuesday night, around 800 people – among which 300 are under 18 –have left the campus in a peaceful manner and had cooperated with police. In all, around 1,100 people have either been arrested or have had their details taken down by officers.

Police also reported that at around 11pm, about 10 ‘masked rioters’ were caught by police as they tried to escape from the main entrance.

Around three hours earlier, a similarly-sized group had rushed out of the university and appeared to try to sneak out under the cover of a few fire engines.

But almost immediately, the sound of weapons discharging was heard, and the protesters quickly scampered back into the campus.

It was just the latest of a series of attempts – some successful, many not – to evade capture after police surrounded the entire campus on Sunday following a blitz of violence, with mobs of black-clad protesters hurling countless petrol bombs and firing arrows at officers, who liberally inundated the area with tear gas and blasts from their water cannons.

Many are thought to have escaped by abseiling down to a highway, where motorcycles were waiting to whisk them off.

Others reportedly tried to get out through sewage tunnels but failed after being overwhelmed by the stench.

Even volunteer medics who have been treating wounded protesters at the university for days decided to pull out on Tuesday night.

Around 20 left at 11pm, after representatives gave a press conference accompanied by medical sector legislator Pierre Chan.

A spokeswoman explained that their work at Poly U was done.

“The number of protesters and students are falling. No other supplies can come in. In this situation, where the amount of food and water are dwindling, we volunteer medics – as we are not protesters – have fulfilled our obligations here. We have to guarantee our safety”, she said.

In a Facebook post, the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, urged any minors still at the university to leave, reiterating that police have agreed to let them go home after taking down their information, and their families are waiting for them.

The police made a similar appeal. In statement, the force said “Police have always emphasised two fundamental principles: peaceful resolution and flexibility. Police have actively engaged with different sectors for dialogues and solutions.”

It added that everyone still on campus should leave in a peaceful manner, and pledged to bring offenders to justice in a fair manner.

The new Commissioner of Police, Chris Tang, meanwhile, took a stroll outside the university at around 10pm, accompanied by anti-riot officers. He was seen chatting and shaking hands with various officers at Chatham Road South, but did not enter the campus.

He left after spending around ten minutes at the scene.