Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University is preparing itself for a siege. Thousands of students and protesters have taken over the third largest university in Hong Kong. They have blocked entrances, torn up brick sidewalks for ammunition, and lined every vantage point with Molotov cocktails. The Olympic swimming pool, emptied of water, has become a practice firing range. Some walk around with bows and arrows, many blunt training arrows, others sharpened or wrapped in gauze, ready to be lit on fire.
It began earlier in the week, following a pitched struggle on Monday between police and protestors who had attacked toll booths and blocked the Cross Harbour Tunnel, one of three underwater tunnels in Hong Kong, which emerges on the island right beside the Polytechnic University. Police retaliated with tear gas.
Protesters withdrew to the Polytechnic University, a Zaha Hadid-designed building, which normally serves 27,000 students, and started fortifying it.
There is only one way into the university now, and one way out. Visitors and protestors are screened at a basic security checkpoint before being allowed to enter.
The university has become the center of a new kind of learning; protestors teaching themselves the art of defense and attack. Everybody has a job. The smell of beer is strong, but it comes from protesters emptying bottles down the drain to make Molotov cocktails. Some work on a different formula for the home-made bombs; others fix goggles and gas masks at a repair station; still, others work in the cafeteria kitchen, which is running at full speed, preparing piles of donated food to keep the improvised garrison fed. Others guard the perimeter; they’ve built a 6ft catapult overlooking the road.
But it’s not clear what exactly they are preparing for. Police came on Thursday evening and then made a tactical decision to withdraw. Whether they will attempt to attack the university is unclear.
Polytechnic is one of five major universities being fortified by protestors. Masked protestors with makeshift weapons barricaded themselves inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Wednesday after violent clashes with riot police overnight.
Police say violence has spread from one university to another, calling Hong Kong “seriously sick.” “University campuses are just like cancer cells,” they said today.
Rocky Tuan, the president of the Chinese University, warned that the university might have to ask the government for help, calling the current situation “unacceptable” and “out of control,” the local news outlet rthk.hk reported.
Students from mainland China have been evacuated with police help and the university has been closed for the rest of the year.
Protests began in Hong Kong in June following the introduction of a new law, which would have permitted judicial extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China. The bill was withdrawn in September but, by then, protests had grown to cover other demands and grievances.
Protesters have four additional demands, calling for: the authorities stop calling the protests ‘riots’; amnesty for arrested protesters; an independent inquiry into police brutality; universal suffrage; the withdrawal of the extradition bill.
Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong Chief Executive since 2017, has doubled down, saying that they will not give in to protestors' demands.