A lot of chaos has been ongoing in the premises of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) within the past 48 hours. The early hours of Monday morning saw protesters throwing bricks, arrows, petrol bombs, and other weapons at the police. The riot escalated when demonstrators set a police truck on fire, all in a bid to challenge the brutality of the police and address Beijing's administration of Hong Kong.
Rally Turns into a Riot
For months now, several universities in Hong Kong have been used as a rally ground for the city's anti-government protest movement. One such is the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). Due to the centralized location of PolyU in the city and its closeness to major roads, the rally made it challenging to access several routes.
As a result, the Hong Kong police made attempts on Saturday night to clear the roadblock but was met with violent actions from hundreds of angry protesters. These individuals had stationed themselves within the main building of PolyU. They stopped the police from entering the campus by throwing weapons at them.
Also, two armored police trucks made attempts to advance on protesters. However, one of the trucks was set on fire, and it tried retreating from the scene. A live stream video publicized on Reddit shows the nature of events on that day.
Protesters Stocked Weapons Before Attack
Reportedly, protesters began stocking weapons, including catapults, bow and arrows, petrol bombs, among others in the school. Law officials, on the other hand, were seen deploying water cannons and firing rounds of tear gas with warnings that they may use live ammunition if they are left with no choice. Demonstrators who made attempts to leave were arrested even though it is uncertain how many people were taken by the police.
Explaining the effect of the riot on the students, Derek Liu, president of the university's student union, said thousands of students, some of which have been injured, were trapped within the school premises. However, the school was slow to reply after complaints were made.
"We have tried to communicate with school authorities, but we have not received any reply after more than two hours," Liu said.
PolyU Asks Students and Staff to Evacuate School Premises
Due to the riot, PolyU has called on its students and staff to leave the campus immediately. In a statement issued by the school alongside other institutions like The University of Hong Kong Baptist University, and City University, the management appealed to demonstrators to cease using violence and exercise restraint.
The school's authority also revealed that dangerous chemicals are missing from the university's laboratories. It also reprimanded the student's activity in fighting the police.
In their own words:
"We understand that students care about the current social situation; however, they must be calm and rational when fighting for anything...Resorting to violence or other radical acts will not help solve the problem."
Police Issues Warning to the Public
The police who also made comments refuted the claims that they had raided PolyU. Law officials said protesters "showed total disregard for the safety of everyone at the scene."
In a tweet on November 17, 2019, the riot police stated that:
"To ensure the safety of everyone in the vicinity of the campus, the police have repeatedly appealed to all to leave immediately via Block Y of Lee Shau Kee Building in Northern direction and listen to police's instructions. Police are now planning for the next round of operation."
China's Extradition Bill Triggers Protest
A lot of reasons have, however, been attributed to the cause of the riot. Based on reports, it began in June 2019, and the China extradition bill triggered it. The bill sought to allow the extradition of suspects to mainland China, but the government suspended the bill as a result of the protest.
Despite this, it did nothing to end the riot. Instead, attention was turned to police brutality, where demonstrators claim that law officials have used excessive force. There is also a broader demand for greater democracy in the region.
What's more, the riot heightened after a 22-year old student was killed in one of the protests. A 70-year-old man also died after being struck by a brick thrown. Likewise, a police media liaison officer was wounded by an arrow during the protest.
Featured Image by The Province