Hong Kong protesters issue demands, begin leaving university

HONG KONG (AP) – Protesters who had barricaded themselves in a Hong Kong university this week began to leave yesterday after partially clearing a road they had blocked and demanding that the government commit to going ahead with local elections on November 24.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong were leaving, or where they might go next.

The university’s President Rocky Tuan urged everyone to leave, saying the situation was out of control and that the university may need to seek government help.

Earlier, the protesters cleared one lane in each direction on Tolo Highway. Workers sent in to clean up remaining debris and set up traffic cones were heckled by protesters, who pointed bows and arrows at them, government officials said, but the two lanes were re-opened around midday.

The protesters said at a 3am news conference that the road would be blocked again and warned of other unspecified consequences if the government didn’t meet their demand within 24 hours.

“In the face of the inconvenience we have caused to the elderly and other young people, we have decided to take the initiative to show our goodwill,” one masked protester said.

“We would like to re-iterate that our target is the government.”

The district council elections are seen as a barometer of public sentiment in Hong Kong, which has been riven by anti-government protests for more than five months.

Pro-democracy activists said the government may use the escalating violence as a reason to cancel the elections.

The police, meanwhile, said they would investigate the death of a 70-year-old man who was hit in the head by a brick as a murder case.

The man, who was using his phone to film a skirmish between protesters and others trying to clear a street earlier this week, died on Thursday night. The Hong Kong government expressed outrage over what it called “the malicious acts of the rioters”.

A man walks past barricades built by protesters at Hong Kong Baptist University in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP