Siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
|Siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University|
|Part of the 2019 Hong Kong protests|
Protesters setting fire at the entrance of the campus to stop the police from advancing on 18 November.
|Date||17 November 2019 – 29 November 2019|
1 week and 5 days
|Caused by||The police attempted to seize control of the main roads surrounding the Polytechnic University campus blocked by the protesters including the Cross Harbour Tunnel|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
|Injuries and arrests|
|2019–20 Hong Kong |
|Part of the Democratic development in Hong Kong|
|Tactics and methods|
Protesters initially set-up a roadblock at the entrance of Cross-Harbour Tunnel, close to the university, and took the university as the base to defend it from attacks by the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) given the conflict at Chinese University of Hong Kong days earlier. Some citizens attempted to remove the roadblocks but were stopped by the protesters. The police shot tear gas and used water cannons to shower the protesters with blue-coloured water mixed with chemical irritants. The protesters responded by throwing bricks and gasoline bombs. Thereafter, the police blocked different campus exits and forbade protesters from leaving. Police tried to drive an armored vehicle into campus but the vehicle was fired by gasoline bombs. The police have arrested people who claim to be first-aiders, medical service volunteers and reporters.
On 18 November the police launched 1,458 canisters of tear gas at protesters as well as shooting 1,391 rubber bullets, 325 bean bag rounds, and 256 sponge grenades. On 19 November the city's hospitals were overwhelmed by the number of protesters needing urgent medical attention caused by the siege, and advised citizens not to use emergency rooms unless absolutely necessary.
At around 10 am, some citizens attempted to clear the roadblocks between Austin Road and Chatham Road South, near Rosary Church. While they were carrying obstacles, like bricks, to the pavement, protesters blocked their actions and prevented them from dismantling the roadblocks. During the confrontation, bricks were thrown towards the people clearing the obstacles. Riot police arrived at around 11 am and confronted the protesters and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them. The protesters retaliated by throwing bricks and gasoline bombs.
Around 9 pm, Police publicly announced that anyone arrested inside the campus of Polytechnic University would face the charge of rioting, so too anyone who attempted to go in or help people inside. At this stage, the Police added that anyone inside the campus could peacefully leave via the exit at Y-core. However, HKPF ambushed and arrested everyone who left through Y-core. Among the people arrested were university staff, reporters, social workers, medical service volunteers, doctors and nurses. Police claimed that protesters were disguising themselves as medical workers, but Dr Arisina Ma, president of Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, criticised the police for arresting the medical workers and detaining them for 24 hours and then forcing them to post bail instead of simply checking their professional identification and releasing them. Surgeon Darren Mann, who had witnessed medics being hogtied and who had telephoned both the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières asking them to intervene, criticised the police for treating medical personnel like terrorists. He said: "The arrest of [active medical] personnel is almost unheard of in civilised countries and is incompatible with the compact of humanitarianism".
Polytechnic University authorities have released a statement saying that protesters have damaged its laboratories and taken away dangerous chemicals. Since then, there have been rising public safety concerns as the Chinese University, Polytechnic University, and City University have all reported to police that chemicals—several of which are toxic, corrosive, or flammable, and deadly—were stolen from their laboratories.
Protesters threw Molotov cocktail towards police.
Auxiliary Bishop of Hong Kong Joseph Ha and a number of pro-democracy legislators requested to meet the HKPF commander, hoping that the crisis could be settled in a peaceful way, but HKPF refused to discuss. Afterwards, pro-democracy legislators held a press conference and declared there was a severe humanitarian crisis happening inside Polytechnic University and demanded Carrie Lam speak up and end the crisis immediately to avoid any serious consequences.
At 9 am, while an RTHK reporter preparing to relieve a colleague inside in accordance with procedures predetermined by the HK Police, went to the indicated place for swapping out, riot police shouted at the journalist and ordered him to put his hands up for checking his press ID and HKID. When the reporter tried to explain that he only wanted to go on duty, riot police refused and insisted that he had to leave by another route. He was escorted at gunpoint all the way by the police as he was leaving. In addition, when the other reporters of RTHK passed the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and wanted to take a shot for the area of HKPU, they had also been blocked and requested to leave by the riot police. The police also indicated that all the people inside the HKPU, would be charged with "participating in a riot".
At 11 am, the Hong Kong Police Force fired tear gas towards Queen Elizabeth Hospital which injured some protesters and forced the hospital to suspend specialist services and to use plastic tape to seal its windows and doors.
Protesters trying to break police cordon in Tsim Sha Tsui to get near the campus.
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Riot police trapped protesters inside the university as the standoff continued, with students desperate to escape PolyU. Some have been confirmed to flee by ziplining below one of the university's bridges, or in some cases, through sewage systems. The protesters also reportedly have 'no way to leave'. The number of protesters trapped inside the building is disputed, as the police claim the number is around 80–100 while protesters claim the number is around 200.
On subsequent days, more protesters from PolyU surrendered to police. The siege continued into 23 November, with around 50 protesters remaining. The campus's hygiene quickly deteriorated, and the protesters inside reported being mentally and physically weak.
28–29 November: End of the siege
Amid dwindling numbers of protesters in the university, the police entered the university on 28 November to look for stragglers and to clear the premises of hazardous materials. After a two-day search that failed to find any holdouts that remained, the police lifted the cordon on 29 November. The university remained closed until the campus is deemed safe, as petrol bombs and other weapons continued to be found on campus. More than 4,000 petrol bomb including about 600 tied with portable propane bottles were discovered. More than 1,100 people were arrested in and around PolyU over the course of the siege.
- Teng Jin-guang, president of Polytechnic University, released a video early on 18 November to explain his disappearance and asked protesters to leave peacefully. In a video lasting 1:08 released by the Polytechnic University's Public Relations Department, he claimed that he has been communicating with police since the afternoon of 17 November and because the police did not suggest he go to the campus, he decided not to appear at the campus but instead release the video. He further claimed that police promised a temporary suspension on the use of force on condition the protesters will do the same. He also said police promised him that protesters can leave the campus peacefully and he himself will accompany any student to the police station and ensure their case will be fairly processed. Teng said that the government shall bear overall responsibility and claimed the university was a victim since only around 50 radical protesters were students from the university.
People's Republic of China
- Hu Xijin, the chief editor of Global Times, urged for protesters to be shot and advocated that the police should be waived from any responsibilities even if the protesters were fatally shot.
- Jim McGovern, who was a member of the United States House of Representatives, emphasized that the entire world was monitoring the situation in Hong Kong; that further violence would only worsen the situation, and asked for self-control by the Hong Kong Government.
- Malcolm Rifkind, former UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, urged Carrie Lam to order the police not to use live ammunition.
- Natalie Bennett, former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales said she had received many international-level requests, and asked the UK government to use all means to mediate the situation.
- David Alton, a member of the House of Lords, emphasized that the bloodshed must stop, while Carrie Lam must take action immediately to stop the tragedy.
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- Media related to Siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University at Wikimedia Commons