Asia-Pacific

Quiet falls over Hong Kong's besieged Polytechnic University as protesters weigh up their next move

Anti-government protesters walk around campus at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Source: Getty Images AsiaPac

The handful of protesters left in the besieged Hong Kong campus are now assessing their options as the city returns to relative calm ahead of council elections.

At least eight protesters who had been holding out at a trashed Hong Kong university have surrendered while others search for escape routes past riot police who surround 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 a handful, days after some of the worst violence since anti-government demonstrations escalated in June.

Anti-government protesters check for police activity from a window on the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Anti-government protesters check for police activity from a window on the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
AFP

Police chief Chris Tang, who took up the post this week, urged those remaining inside to come out.

"I believe people inside the campus do not want their parents, friends ... to worry about them," Tang told reporters on Friday.

Those who remain say they want to avoid being arrested for rioting or on other charges, so hope to find some way to slip past the police or hide.

Sitting in the largely deserted campus, one holdout described how his girlfriend had pleaded with him to surrender to the police.

He had refused, he said, telling her she might as well find another partner because he would likely go to jail.

A man sits at a debris-strewn area on the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus.
A man sits at a debris-strewn area on the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus.
AFP

"A man has to abandon everything otherwise it's impossible to take part in a revolution," the protester told Reuters.

Another man sitting nearby agreed, saying it was just as well he was divorced because a "man with family cannot make it to here".

The campus was so quiet on Friday you could hear the chants of Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers exercising at their nearby base.

People's Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison soldiers march on the grounds of the Gun Club Hill Barracks located near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
People's Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison soldiers march on the grounds of the Gun Club Hill Barracks located near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
AFP

Many levels of the buildings look like abandoned rebel hideouts strewn with remains -- rucksacks, masks, water bottles, cigarette butts, with security cameras smashed throughout. Lockers were stuffed with gas masks and black clothes, and a samurai sword lay on the ground where it was abandoned.

"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 as Shiba as he ate noodles in the protesters' canteen.

A Reuters reporter saw six black-clad protesters holding hands walk towards police lines while a first-aid worker said two more surrendered later.

Belongings leftover from protesters who barricaded themselves on campus are seen in a canteen at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Belongings leftover from protesters who barricaded themselves on campus are seen in a canteen at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
AFP

The protests snowballed from June after years of resentment over what many residents see as Chinese meddling in freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Protesters, who have thrown firebombs and rocks and fired bows and arrows at police, are calling for full democracy and an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality, among other demands.

Police have responded to the attacks with rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and occasional live rounds but say they have acted with restraint in life-threatening situations.

One older protester, who estimated only about 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.

There have been two days and nights of relative calm in the city ahead of district council elections that are due to take place on Sunday.

Tang said police would adopt a "high-profile" presence on Sunday and he appealed to protesters to refrain from violence so people feel safe to vote.

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