Hong Kong, Nov 29 (IANS) Hong Kong police are set to end the nearly two-week-long siege of the city’s Polytechnic University (PolyU) on Friday noon after they completed an operation removing dangerous items, including Molotov cocktails, bows, and chemicals stowed there.
The city state police will pull out all officers surrounding the campus after their day-long operation on Thursday, Efe News reported. The impending police retreat will end a dramatic episode of months-long protest movement that has incurred the wrath of people of Hong Kong supporting the movement, as well as the academic world.
During the operation, police claim to have seized around 4,000 petrol bombs, hundreds of gas canisters, hundreds of bottles of chemicals, including sulphuric acid “believed to have been stolen by protesters from laboratories on the campus ” and other offensive weapons such as bows, arrows and catapults. No protester was found.
“We have almost completed the operation,” said Joe Chow, Assistant Commissioner of the Police, in reference to the operation in which they entered PolyU on Thursday morning ‘for the first time since they began the siege’ to remove dangerous items and gather evidence from the campus, Efe news reported.
“Later on, we will hand over the campus to the university. Police would like to reiterate that we will not tolerate any kind of violence or illegal activities,” Chow added when meeting the press Friday morning.
The police’s morning announcement came after repeated calls this week by PolyU’s management for the embattled force to unblock the campus, given that most protesters have left the compound, located in the harbour-side district of Hung Hom in Kowloon.
It is, however, still unclear whether there are still protesters inside on Wednesday night, one of them emerged and told the press he reckoned there were still 20 people remaining.
The siege began on November 17, when anti-government protesters clashed violently with police in Hung Hom. Many protesters fled into PolyU, but they soon found themselves stranded, as the police besieged the campus and decided to arrest anyone walking out of the campus.
Over the next few days, hundreds of people barricaded inside PolyU handed themselves over while some others used their own ways to escape, including abseiling down from a bridge.
Those who stayed put were reluctant to leave, out of fear of being charged with rioting “an offence that carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years” and of being subdued by police with violence
So far the police have arrested or taken down the personal details of over 1,000 people walking out of the campus.
This week, over 3,700 professors and lecturers around the world, leading prominent academics like Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker, signed a petition condemning the “use of disproportionate force and retaliatory brutality by Hong Kong police against students in university campuses” in Hong Kong.