Officials at a Hong Kong university where police and protesters clashed violently a week ago said Tuesday they had searched the entire campus and found just one remaining holdout in a sign the campus siege may be near an end.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) emerged as the epicentre of the territory’s increasingly violent protest movement when clashes broke out on November 17 between police and protesters armed with bows, arrows and Molotov cocktails.
The standoff then quickly settled into a tense stalemate during which hundreds fled the campus — some attempting to get out through sewer lines — leaving a dwindling core of holdouts.
But university officials said their search turned up just one remaining female protester.
“We have swept through the whole campus systematically and we found one protester in the student union building,” the university’s vice president Wai Ping-kong told reporters.
He said the individual was over 18 and not a student at the university. He gave no further details on her identity but said the university was trying to convince her to leave.
As the standoff set in, it became a guessing game as to how many protesters remained since they largely kept themselves hidden in buildings across the campus.
The university sent in teams earlier on Tuesday to look for holdouts, sealing doors with tape after rooms had been searched, but Wai said officials could not rule out the possibility that other protesters remained hidden.
Asked whether police would soon move in to clear the university, Wai said he knew of no such intention, and police announced no plans to enter the campus, which they have had surrounded throughout the impasse. Hong Kongers have protested in huge numbers after Lam’s government earlier this year introduced a bill to allow extraditions to China.
The bill was eventually withdrawn under public pressure, but touched off increasingly violent protests by demonstrators who fear that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.
A weekend election for community-level councils across Hong Kong saw a landslide win for pro-democracy candidates, raising the pressure on Lam to respond to demands for reform.
Lam admitted on Tuesday that the vote revealed “unhappiness” with her administration, but she offered no indication of any coming concessions.
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