Global Economy

Protesters hold out as Hong Kong leader urges peaceful resolution

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she hoped a standoff between police and a hold-out group of anti-government protesters at a university could be resolved and she had told police to handle it humanely.

About 100 protesters remained in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which has been surrounded by police, after more than two days of clashes. Some 280 injured were taken to hospitals on Tuesday, the Hospital Authority said. Police have arrested about 1,100 people in the past day on charges including rioting and possession of offensive weapons, they said.

Lam spoke shortly after the city’s new police chief urged the support of all citizens to end more than five months of unrest that was triggered by fears that China’s central government is stifling the city’s special autonomy and freedoms.

Lam said her government was very much on the “reactive side-”in dealing with the protests but she did not rule out more violence even as she urged peace.

“If the protesters are coming out in a peaceful manner … then there is no situation when that sort of violence would happen,” she told a press briefing.

However, police would have to take “necessary action” if the situation changed, she said. Lam said she had been shocked that campuses had been turned into “weapons factories”.

On the sprawling Polytechnic campus in the Kowloon district, a sense of despair prevailed amid the shriek of fire alarms on Tuesday afternoon.

“I feel I’m in trouble,” said a 22-year-old who gave his name as Marcus, as he sat with two friends in the campus canteen, at a table piled with dirty dishes and plastic cups, debating their options. “We keep trying to think how to escape, but every time we pick a spot we see many police nearby,” Marcus said. “But if we give up, we’re finished.” In the campus central square, a giant “SOS” call for help was spelled out in pink, blue and yellow bath towels.

The university, known as PolyU, is the last of five that protesters occupied to use as bases from which to disrupt the city, blocking the central cross-harbour tunnel and main roads and forcing the closure of businesses including shopping malls. Their aim, they said, is to put the government under economic pressure. Lam said 600 protesters had left the campus, including 200 below the age of 18.


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