The management of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has said that it will continue searching for the protesters trapped on its campus, as the school entered into its tenth day of police lockdown.
“Our crew have searched every room in the school to look for the remaining protesters. We are mainly worried that some of them might be so physically weak that they could not find the strength to leave the campus,” PolyU Vice-President Alexander Wai Ping-kong told the press on Tuesday.
It is unclear how many protesters remain at the Hung Hom campus. On Tuesday morning, Wai led a group of around 50 staff members, social workers and others to search for them.
At around 4pm, Wai said the crew had checked most of the buildings and found a protester who “appeared physically weak and emotionally unstable.” He said that the protester was then treated by medics, though she refused to leave.
Wai said that the team was unable to locate any more protesters during the six-hour search, but he did not rule out the possibility that there were still people hiding in the school.
He said many facilities had been damaged to various extents. For example, he said, the university library had been “severely flooded,” whilst some cars in the parking lots had their fuel tanks forced open.
“The hygiene condition is very bad. Except for the canteen and a few other places, most facilities have not been cleaned,” Wai said. “We hope to take back control over the school in order to resume normal operations as soon as possible.”
He added that the petrol bombs and dangerous items found across the campus would be removed before any clean-up action took place.
Several pro-democracy lawmakers and district councillors – including Ip Kin-yuen, Roy Kwong and Clarisse Yeung – also went to PolyU on Tuesday to look for the protesters.
Lawmaker Gary Fan said he could not find the two protesters he had spoken to the previous day. He expressed concern that a humanitarian crisis might have taken place and urged the police to lift the siege immediately.
PolyU said it would expand the search team and continue looking for the remaining protesters.
Public pressure mounts
Dozens of people gathered at the IFC mall in Central during lunchtime on Tuesday to urge the authorities to release the PolyU protesters. They held up placards saying “Save PolyU” and sang the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong.”
Hundreds also took to the streets on Monday evening to demand the release of the protesters, as dozens of newly elected District Councillors turned up to negotiate their release with police.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To said Tuesday that the police had refused to retreat despite the efforts by the district councillors. Describing the number of officers stationed around PolyU as disproportionate and the standoff as unnecessary, To said Chief Executive Carrie Lam should de-escalate the situation by ordering the force to leave the site.
The cross-harbour tunnel, adjacent to the campus, reopened to traffic on Tuesday after it closed for two weeks for repairs related to the unrest.
Hundreds began occupying PolyU and several other universities on November 11 in keeping with a larger plan to mobilise a citywide strike and class boycott.
The cordons around PolyU began on the evening of November 17, with riot police blocking all campus exits and announcing that everyone present in the school would be apprehended on suspicion of rioting.
More than 1,100 people have been arrested, or have had their information collected by police in connection to the PolyU siege – roughly a fifth of all arrests since the unrest began in June.
Hong Kong has entered into its 26th week of demonstrations, sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have enabled the transfer of suspects to mainland China. The protests have since morphed into wider demands for democratic reform and police accountability.
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