Last campus protestors hold out as Hong Kong schools reopen
Hong Kong – Hong Kong schools reopened Wednesday after a six-day shutdown, but students and commuters faced transit disruptions as the last anti-government protesters remained holed up on a university campus, surrounded by police.
City officials tried to restore a sense of normalcy as primary and secondary classes resumed. Workers began cleaning up debris blocking a major road tunnel, but it was unclear when it would reopen. Officials warned protesters not to disrupt elections scheduled for the weekend.
A small group of protesters refused to leave Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the remnants of hundreds who took over the campus for several days. They won’t leave because they would face arrest, and police have set up a cordon around the area to prevent anyone from escaping.
The occupation of Polytechnic capped more than a week of intense protests, the latest flareup in the often-violent unrest that has gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for more than five months.
Also Wednesday, a former British Consulate employee said he was detained in mainland China and tortured by secret police trying to extract information about activists involved in the movement – revelations sure to add to protesters’ fears about Beijing’s tightening grip.
Since a police siege of the campus began Sunday, police have arrested 700 people who left campus to surrender, while another 300 minors were allowed to go home but may still face prosecution, Chief Superintendent Ricky Ho told reporters.
Among those arrested were people involved in an apparent escape attempt through a sewer. Ho said officers saw four people remove a manhole cover and lower a rope into the drain to help two others climb out. Ho said all were arrested but did not give further details.
It was unclear how many protesters remained on campus, but they appeared to number fewer than 100. About two dozen scrounged through supplies in the cafeteria looking for food in the morning. Trash littered public areas, and a stench permeated the campus.
One protester, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears arrest, remained adamant.
“I think if you go out and surrender, it just shows you agree with what the police and that government are doing or have given up the fight,” he said.
There were scattered incidents of protesters stopping trains by opening emergency doors and blocking traffic, but on a much smaller scale than last week.
Television footage showed long lines at some stations because of train delays. A few stations remained shut by damage from earlier protests.
A group of protesters, joined by students in uniform, blocked traffic at one intersection. Others in the area argued with them, removing some of the metal barriers that protesters carried into the street.
Even as the latest violence wound down, a fundamental divide suggested the protests in the former British colony are far from over.