Hong Kong protests es­ca­late as siege con­tin­ues at cam­pus

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By Ken Moritsugu and Kelvin K. Chan

HONG KONG — Po­lice tight­ened their siege of a univer­sity cam­pus where hun­dreds of pro­test­ers re­mained trapped overnight Tues­day in the lat­est dra­matic episode in months of protests against grow­ing Chi­nese con­trol over the semi-au­ton­o­mous city.

In yet an­other es­ca­la­tion for the move­ment, protests raged across other parts of the city, fu­eled by pal­pa­ble pub­lic anger over the po­lice block­ade of Hong Kong Polytech­nic Univer­sity and the de­sire to help the stu­dents stuck in­side.

Now in its fifth month, the Hong Kong protest move­ment has steadily in­ten­si­fied as lo­cal and Bei­jing au­thor­i­ties har­den their po­si­tions and refuse to make con­ces­sions. Uni­ver­si­ties have be­come the lat­est bat­tle­ground for the pro­test­ers, who used gaso­line bombs and bows-an­dar­rows in their fight to keep riot po­lice backed by ar­mored cars and wa­ter can­nons off two cam­puses in the past week.

China, which took con­trol of the for­mer Bri­tish colony in 1997 promis­ing to let it re­tain its au­ton­omy, flexed its mus­cles, send­ing troops out­side their bar­racks over the week­end in a cleanup op­er­a­tion.

China’s am­bas­sador to Bri­tain ac­cused the U.K. and the U.S. of med­dling in the coun­try’s in­ter­nal af­fairs and warned that the Chi­nese govern­ment “will not sit on our hands” if the sit­u­a­tion in Hong Kong “be­comes un­con­trol­lable.”

“These ri­ot­ers, they are also crim­i­nals. They have to face the con­se­quences of their acts,” said Cheuk Hau-yip, the com­man­der of Kowloon West district, where Polytech­nic Univer­sity is lo­cated.

“Other than com­ing out to sur­ren­der, I don’t see that there’s any vi­able op­tion for them,” he said, adding that po­lice have the abil­ity and re­solve to end the stand­off.

Au­thor­i­ties, mean­while, were dealt a set­back Mon­day when Hong Kong’s high court struck down a con­tentious ban on wear­ing face masks in pub­lic im­posed last month, rul­ing it un­con­sti­tu­tional.

The pitched bat­tle for con­trol of Hong Kong Polytech­nic Univer­sity be­gan last week as de­mon­stra­tors for days for­ti­fied the cam­pus to keep the po­lice out. On Mon­day, cor­nered by se­cu­rity forces deter­mined to ar­rest them, they des­per­ately tried to get out but faced a cor­don of of­fi­cers armed with tear gas and wa­ter can­nons.

Se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cials said they were try­ing to de-es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion and urged the pro­test­ers to leave peace­fully and co­op­er­ate with po­lice — ad­vice that seemed cer­tain to lead to ar­rests and there­fore strength­ened the pro­test­ers’ re­solve to re­sist.

Be­fore dawn Tues­day, po­lice al­lowed a group of mi­nors to leave the cam­pus af­ter their high school prin­ci­pals se­cured a prom­ise that they could go home safely. Po­lice took down the teenagers’ de­tails, and they could still face pros­e­cu­tion later, lo­cal broad­caster RTHK re­ported.

All day Mon­day, mul­ti­ple protests dis­rupted traf­fic in the Asian fi­nan­cial cen­ter, where schools re­mained closed be­cause of safety con­cerns stem­ming from the demon­stra­tions, which be­gan in June but have be­come in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent in re­cent weeks.


Pro­test­ers form a hu­man chain to pass items to the front line as a po­lice block­ade of Hong Kong Polytech­nic Univer­sity in­ten­si­fied Mon­day in the semi-au­ton­o­mous city.

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