November 22, 2019
HONG KONG (Reuters) – At least eight protesters who had been holding out at a trashed Hong Kong university surrendered to police in the early hours of Friday, while others desperately searched for escape routes as riot officers surrounded the campus.
The siege at the Polytechnic University on the Kowloon peninsula appeared to be nearing an end with the number of protesters dwindling to less than 100, days after some of the worst violence since anti-government demonstrations escalated in June.
The mood on the near-deserted campus was calm as the sun rose after a night where some protesters roamed the grounds in search of undercover officers. Others hid, terrified they would be arrested by infiltrators.
“We are feeling a little tired. All of us feel tired but we will not give up trying to get out,” said a 23-year-old demonstrator who gave his name only as Shiba as he ate noodles with egg and sausage in the protesters’ canteen.
“We spent yesterday trying to find ways to get outside but failed, so we came for some breakfast,” he said.
A Reuters reporter saw six black-clad protesters holding hands walk toward police lines, while a first aid worker said two more surrendered later.
Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and are calling for full democracy, among other demands.
Beijing has said it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong is governed. It denies meddling in Hong Kong affairs and accuses foreign governments, including Britain and the United States, of stirring up trouble.
One older protester, who estimated only around 30 demonstrators remained, said some had given up looking for escape routes and were now making new weapons to protect themselves in case police stormed the campus.
The Chinese-ruled city has enjoyed two days and nights of relative calm ahead of district council elections that are due to take place on Sunday.
The government has said it is committed to proceeding with the elections and is monitoring the situation to ensure the election can be held safely.
All polling stations will be guarded by armed officers in riot gear for the first time in the history of local elections, the South China Morning Post reported.
(Reporting Clare Jim and Alun John; Writing by By Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Paul Tait)