A dangerous standoff

Updated: 2019-11-23 07:34

By Staff Writer(HK Edition)

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On the night of Nov 16, battles between the police and anti-government protesters around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University were intense. Three archers took aim behind high yellow barricades firing in the direction of the police with no sight of their targets. This was a new development in the ongoing troubles in Hong Kong and one that would make the job of covering it a lot more dangerous.

On Nov 16, everyone was nervous. The protesters busily built barricades along the walls and bridges while others sat in small groups in the courtyards making gasoline bombs. At midnight the police moved forward and a short exchange took place between the two sides.

Shortly after 9 am on Nov 17 the battle started. For 15 hours police pushed forward with water cannon and tear gas but were beaten back with volleys of gasoline bombs, arrows and stones. In the evening the intensity rose as the police moved across the bridges that cross the Harbour Tunnel entrance. As the protesters were forced to retreat so they started to burn. First the bridges and then a massive attack on one police armored vehicle. I left around midnight as the battle had subsided but returned the next morning to report from the outside. At a junction on South Chatham road protesters attacked a small police patrol stationed to protect the university cordon. Wave after wave of attacks came at the police patrol with an intensity I had not seen before while covering the protests. Twice the protesters placed large gas containers in the road and hurled gasoline bombs at them in the hope they would explode. Fortunately neither did and the police removed them. The patrol stood firm for 14 hours, responding with tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. A Canadian tourist who was staying at the Best Western right at the junction and who had been watching the clashes all day told me "it's unbelievable how these policemen were able to hold this junction without killing anybody".

On Nov 18 back inside PolyU the atmosphere had changed. The black-clad protesters had left their posts and were now sitting around in casual clothes contemplating their next step. Two men made a dash across the street into the next building while the police guard was distracted - I am not sure if they escaped. Politicians, community leaders and medical crews arrived and slowly but steadily took people out, some covered in blue blankets. One 15 year old told me he was waiting to be collected by his teacher.

After four days I was exhausted and hoping for a peaceful conclusion.

(HK Edition 11/23/2019 page2)