Hong Kong police fire rubber bullets to pin back campus protesters

Police detain protesters near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hung Hom district on Monday, November 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2019

Hong Kong police fire rubber bullets to pin back campus protesters

  • Dozens tried to flee the Polytechnic University after a night of mayhem in the Chinese-ruled city
  • Police urged protesters to ‘drop their weapons’ and leave

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Monday to force back anti-government protesters trying to escape a university where hundreds are holed up with petrol bombs and other homemade weapons amid fears of a bloody crackdown.
Dozens tried to flee the Polytechnic University after a night of mayhem in the Chinese-ruled city in which major roads were blocked and a bridge was set on fire and a police officer was shot by a bow and arrow.
Many were arrested near the university on Monday, public broadcaster RTHK reported, while in the nearby commercial area of Nathan Road activists stopped traffic and forced shopping malls and stores to shut.
“We’ve been trapped here for too long. We need all Hong Kongers to know we need help,” said Dan, a 19-year-old protester on the campus, as he burst into tears.
“I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this. We may need international help.”
Protesters tried to make another run for it in the afternoon but were met with more volleys of tear gas.
Thirty-eight people were wounded overnight on Sunday, the city’s Hospital Authority said. Reuters witnesses saw some protesters suffering from burns from chemicals in jets fired from police water cannons.
“Remember you have life in your hands. Why do you need to push us to death?” one person shouted at police from a campus rooftop as protesters wearing gas masks and clutching umbrellas looked for ways to escape.
Police urged protesters to “drop their weapons” and leave.
“Police appeal to everyone inside the Polytechnic University to drop their weapons and dangerous items, remove their gas masks and leave via the top level of Cheong Wan Road South Bridge in an orderly manner,” they said in a statement.
“They should follow police instructions and must not charge at police cordons.”
Live video showed protesters with their hands tied behind their backs sitting cross-legged on a road as riot police stood guard in one of the busiest commercial and tourist districts in the former British colony.
Police said they fired three live rounds when “rioters” attacked two officers who were attempting to arrest a woman. No one was wounded and the woman escaped amid a dramatic escalation of the unrest that has plunged the Asian financial hub into chaos for almost six months.
Demonstrators angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in Hong Kong’s promised freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. They say they are responding to excessive use of force by police.
China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula granting Hong Kong autonomy, with the city’s police accusations they use undue violence.
The city’s Cross-Harbor Tunnel, next to the Polytechnic university, linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula, remained closed after protesters torched a bridge above the toll booths on Sunday.
Some train services and many roads across the Kowloon peninsula were closed. All schools were shut.
As police approached the barricaded front gate of the university in the predawn hours, protesters retreated into the campus and started fires at the gate and a footbridge.
Some protesters discussed trying to leave, while others reinforced barricades and carried boxes of petrol bombs to positions around the complex.
Thousands of residents and protesters flocked to districts around the university including Tsim Sha Tsui, Jordan and Yau Ma Tei, to try to penetrate the riot-police lines to rescue the trapped students.


G5 Sahel leaders pay tribute to 71 soldiers slain in Niger

Updated 15 December 2019

G5 Sahel leaders pay tribute to 71 soldiers slain in Niger

NIAMEY: Leaders of the G5 Sahel nations held summit talks in Niamey Sunday, after the death last week of 71 Niger soldiers in a jihadist attack, calling for closer cooperation and international support in the battle against the Islamist threat.
Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the regional G5 group, called for a minute’s silence for the victims of Tuesday’s attack at a military camp in Inates, near the Mali border.
“These endless attacks carried out by terrorist groups in our region remind us not only of the gravity of the situation, but also the urgency for us to work more closely together,” said Kabore.
“The terrorist threat against the Sahel countries is getting worse,” said Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, the host of the summit.
The attacks were aimed not just at military targets but increasingly “civilian populations, notably traditional local leaders.”
Earlier four of the five Sahel leaders paid homage at the graves of 71 Niger military personnel killed. Kabore and Issoufou attended along with Mali’s Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, Chad’s Idriss Deby Itno for the short ceremony at an air base in Niamey.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the assault, in which hundreds of jihadists attacked a camp near the border with Mali with shells and mortars.
The attack in Inates in the western Tillaberi region was the deadliest on Niger’s military since Islamist militant violence began to spill over from neighboring Mali in 2015, and dealt a blow to efforts to roll back extremism in the Sahel.
At Sunday’s ceremony, a large panel painted in the red, white and green of the Niger flag bore the inscription; “rest in peace, worthy and valiant sons of the nation. The Fatherland will be eternally grateful.”
The G5 leaders announced on Saturday they would hold the extraordinary summit in Niger to show solidarity and to “consult” after the large-scale attack. The meeting had originally been due to take place in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.
Niger has been observing three days of national mourning from Friday to Sunday.
Militant violence has spread across the vast Sahel region, especially in Burkina Faso and Niger, having started when armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012.
In the last four months, the insurgency has claimed the lives of more than 230 soldiers in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. Last month, 13 French troops were killed in a helicopter collision while hunting jihadists in northern Mali.
Thousands of civilians have also died and more than a million have been forced to flee their homes since the jihadist revolt began.
Analysts note an escalation in the jihadists’ operational tactics, which seem to have become bolder and more complex in recent months.
From hit-and-run raids by a small group of Kalashnikov-armed guerrillas, the extremists are now carrying out operations that involve hundreds of fighters, armed with mortars and using vehicles for suicide attacks.
Ranged against them are the impoverished armies of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, plus a 4,500-man French force in the Sahel and the 13,000-man UN force in Mali, MINUSMA.
Tuesday’s attack prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to postpone a meeting scheduled for next week in the southwestern French town of Pau, where he and five presidents from the Sahel were due to discuss security in the region.
The talks will now take place early next year.
The Sahel region of Africa lies to the south of the Sahara Desert and stretches across the breadth of the African continent.