Diehards hold out at Hong Kong campus as foreign pressure grows

Protesters at Hong Kong Polytechnic University said around 50 of their number remained after hundreds had fled following official warnings that police may fire live rounds to clear the area. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2019

Diehards hold out at Hong Kong campus as foreign pressure grows

  • The violent standoff between demonstrators and police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University rippled overseas
  • The standoff has been the most intense and prolonged in nearly six months of unrest that began over a now-shelved bill to allow extraditions to China

HONG KONG: A few dozen pro-democracy protesters remained holed up inside a besieged Hong Kong university campus for a fourth straight day on Wednesday as supporters took up online calls to disrupt the city’s train network in a bid to distract police.
The violent standoff between demonstrators and police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) rippled overseas, with the United Nations calling for a peaceful resolution to the siege, while the US passed new legislation supporting protesters’ demands.
The epicenter of nearly six months of increasingly savage anti-China protests has shifted to the PolyU campus, a stone’s throw from the city’s harbor, where hardcore protesters have repelled riot police with Molotov cocktails, bricks and arrows.
The standoff has been the most intense and prolonged in nearly six months of unrest that began over a now-shelved bill to allow extraditions to China.
Millions of angry citizens hit the streets in a movement that quickly snowballed into a wider call for free elections and an inquiry into alleged police brutality, demands that Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leaders have refused.
Protesters at PolyU said around 50 of their number remained after hundreds had fled deteriorating conditions and following official warnings that police may fire live rounds to clear the area.
Exhausted bands of youths continued to wander the campus, preparing Molotov cocktails while others slept on a gym floor.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam called Tuesday for the protesters to surrender, adding that those over 18 would face rioting charges, but minors would not be arrested.
“I don’t ever give up. Yes, I will fight until the end,” said a 15-year-old holdout armed with bow and arrow who identified himself as William.
“But ... it’s very dangerous, because when you use the bow, the police must shoot you, with some unknown bullets. Maybe real bullets.”
Others were medically evacuated on gurneys overnight, and on Wednesday before dawn AFP journalists watched as police chased down and arrested around a dozen students making a break for it.
“Police appeal to all staying in the campus to leave in a peaceful manner and pledge to bring offenders to justice in a fair manner,” a police statement late Tuesday said.
The UN human rights office was watching the university situation with “deepening concern,” spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.
He called for authorities “to address the humanitarian situation of those inside, which is clearly deteriorating, and facilitate a peaceful resolution.”
A “Blossom Everywhere” strategy of disruptive vandalism lasting more than a week has brought much of the city’s transport network to a standstill and shuttered schools.
Some of the busiest train lines were disrupted yet again on Wednesday, with huge queues of commuters forming after local media reported that protesters were blocking subway doors from closing and damaging stations.
Appeals also circulated online calling for citizens to use their lunch breaks to take to the streets. The midday actions began last week and were met in some places with tear gas.
The city’s education bureau reopened primary and secondary schools on Wednesday after a suspension that began last week. Kindergartens remain closed.
But local media reported that masked students at one school barricaded road access to the facility, causing scuffles with local residents and forcing riot police to disperse the students, arresting some.
China has repeatedly condemned protesters as violent criminals and rejected any foreign criticism.
But the US Senate on Tuesday unanimously adopted new legislation calling for Hong Kong democracy and threatening to revoke the favorable trade status that the semi-autonomous Chinese territory enjoys with the United States.
Lawmakers also approved a measure that would ban the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and other equipment used by Hong Kong security forces.
Hong Kong’s government responded Wednesday by warning that the legislation would also harm US interests and “add fuel to the fire” of the protests.


Militants execute four hostages in Nigeria: French NGO

Updated 1 min 4 sec ago

Militants execute four hostages in Nigeria: French NGO

  • The four were among six hostages abducted and held by the militants in northeastern Nigeria
  • Decade-long insurgency has killed 35,000 people and displaced around two million from their homes
PARIS: Militants have executed four Nigerian hostages held since July, French aid group Action Against Hunger said, adding that one of its staff and two drivers were among those killed.
The four were among six hostages abducted and held by the militants in northeastern Nigeria, the Paris-based NGO said.
“The armed group responsible for the kidnapping of humanitarian workers on July 18 have murdered four hostages,” Action Against Hunger said in a statement on Friday that did not identify the victims.
Another of the hostages was killed in September.
The aid group said it was “extremely concerned and calls for the immediate release of its staff member, Grace, who remains in captivity.”
A decade-long Islamist insurgency has killed 35,000 people and displaced around two million from their homes in northeast Nigeria.
The violence has now spread to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition to fight the insurgents.
The six hostages — an Action Against Hunger employee, two drivers and three health ministry personnel — were kidnapped while delivering humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in Borno State.
Their driver was killed in the ambush carried out by militants believed to be members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group.
ISWAP is a splinter group of Boko Haram that swore allegiance in 2016 to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Daesh group who died in October during a US raid on his hideout in Syria.
It has repeatedly attacked military bases and previously targeted aid workers in northeast Nigeria.
“Action Against Hunger condemns these latest killings in the strongest terms and deeply regrets that its calls for the release of the hostages have not been acted upon,” the group said in its statement.
Shortly after the kidnapping, ISWAP released a video purporting to show the one female aid worker and five male colleagues who had been seized in an attack in the region.
The SITE intelligence group, which monitors Islamist extremist online activity, quoted Nigerian journalist Ahmad Saldika as saying the latest killings were the “result of a breakdown of talks with the Nigerian government.”
Saldika had also previously obtained a video of the September hostage killing, according to SITE.
On Thursday ISWAP insurgents killed 14 anti-militant militia and a police officer in northeast Nigeria, militia leaders said Friday.
The militia was comprised of local hunters across the northeast along with the state funded Civilian Joint Task Force, an armed vigilante group.
Action Against Hunger said it is currently providing food assistance every month to approximately 300,000 people in northeast Nigeria, as well helping thousands more with life-saving health and nutrition services.