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Hong Kong police enter ransacked campus after protest siege

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Hong Kong police on Thursday entered a ransacked university campus where authorities faced off for days with barricaded pro-democracy protesters, looking for petrol bombs and other dangerous materials left over from the occupation.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University became the epicentre of the territory’s increasingly violent protest movement when clashes broke out on November 17 between police and protesters armed with bows and arrows as well as Molotov cocktails.

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The standoff settled into a tense stalemate during which hundreds fled the campus — some making daring escapes, others caught and beaten by officers during failed breakouts — leaving a dwindling core of holdouts surrounded by police cordons.

AFP / Anthony WALLACE Authorities are looking for explosives and other dangerous materials left over from the occuption of the campus by protesters

But in recent days, the last few people barricaded in the campus seemed to disappear.

University staff said they were only able to find a single protester on campus and reporters there struggled to see any major presence in the last 48 hours.

Late Wednesday, a lone masked man spoke to reporters inside the campus saying some 20 protesters remained.

But there was no sign of them on Thursday morning when police and firefighters moved in, 11 days after the siege began, for what was billed as an operation to secure dangerous objects now littering the once placid campus and to collect evidence.

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Riot police in tactical gear began gathering dozens of discarded petrol bombs and bottles of chemicals that had been looted from the university laboratories.

AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURI Swathes of the Polytechnic University campus resemble an abandoned battleground

Explosives experts went from room to room followed by a gaggle of reporters, passing walls daubed with graffiti insulting the city’s police force and calling for greater freedoms under Chinese rule.

The university now faces a mammoth clean-up operation.

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Swathes of the red-brick campus just a stone’s throw from the city’s famous harbour resemble an abandoned battleground covered in debris, barricades and the shattered bottles of Molotov cocktails.

A foul odour from rotting food in a canteen and overflowing garbage bins permeated parts of the campus.

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On Wednesday, university leaders called for the police to end their siege and for the government to help with the disposal of dangerous materials.

Hong Kongers have protested in huge numbers over the last six months fuelled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out the city’s liberties.

Violence spiralled as Beijing and local leaders refused major concessions and the police were used to break up rallies on a daily basis.

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Beijing and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam have argued that a “silent majority” still supports the establishment and abhors the increased violence of radical protesters.

But that narrative was undermined by community-level council elections on Sunday which saw a landslide win for pro-democracy candidates across the city.


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Walkouts as Roman Polanski wins best director at French Oscars

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Roman Polanski won best director for "An Officer and a Spy" at a fractious ceremony for the French Oscars, the Cesars, that ended in walkouts and recrimination in Paris early Saturday.

The entire French academy had been forced to resign earlier this month amid fury that the veteran -- wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 -- had topped the list of nominations.

Protesters chanting "Lock up Polanski!" tried to storm the theatre where the ceremony was being held before being pushed back by police firing tear gas.

And France's Culture Minister Franck Riester had warned that giving the maker of "Rosemary's Baby" a Cesar would be "symbolically bad given the stance we must take against sexual and sexist violence".

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Trump accuses Democrats of coronavirus ‘hoax’ as confirmed cases in US gather pace

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President Donald Trump accused Democrats of a new “hoax” over criticism of his handling of the coronavirus threat, as US health officials reported Friday a fourth case of novel coronavirus of unknown origin, indicating the disease was spreading in the country.

The latest case is a boy under 18 in Washington State who tested "presumptive positive" and is currently in home isolation in Snohomish County. The high school he attends will be shut until March 3 while it is deep cleaned, the Washington State Department of Health said.

A positive test is treated as "presumptive" until the results have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Regulators move to fine telecoms for selling location data

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US regulators moved to impose fines Friday against the nation's four major wireless carriers for selling location data of customers without their consent.

The Federal Communications Commission proposed fining T-Mobile more than $91 million; AT&T some $57 million; Verizon $48 million, and Sprint $12 million.

The wireless firms were accused of having disclosed mobile network user location data to a third party without authorization from customers, the FCC said.

The FCC began an investigation after a report that a sheriff in Missouri used a "location-finding service" operated by a prison communications services company called Securus to track whereabouts of people including a judge and law enforcement officers.

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