Last campus protesters hold out as Hong Kong schools reopen

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong schools reopened yesterday after a six-day shutdown but students and commuters faced transit disruptions as the last protesters remained holed up on a university campus.

City officials tried to restore a sense of normalcy as primary and secondary classes resumed.

Workers began cleaning up debris blocking a major road tunnel, but it was unclear how soon it could be re-opened.

A small group of protesters refused to leave the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the remnants of hundreds who took over the campus for several days. They won’t leave because they would face arrest. Police have set up a cordon around the area to prevent anyone from escaping.

The occupation of Polytechnic capped more than a week of intense protests, the latest flare-up in the often violent unrest that has gripped the city for over five months.

Protesters during a demonstration in Hong Kong’s financial district. PHOTO: AP

Since a police siege of the campus began last Sunday, over 1,000 people have been arrested and hundreds of injured treated at hospitals, authorities said.

It was unclear how many protesters remained, but they appeared to number less than 100. About two dozen scrounged through supplies in the cafeteria looking for food in the morning.

Trash litters public areas, and a stench permeates the campus.

One protester, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears arrest, remained adamant.

“I think if you go out and surrender, it just shows you agree with what the police and that government are doing or have given up the fight,” he said.

There were scattered incidents of protesters stopping trains by opening emergency doors and blocking traffic yesterday but on a much smaller scale than last week.Television footage showed long lines at some stations because of train delays. A few stations remained shut due to damages from earlier protests.

A group of protesters, joined by students in uniform, blocked traffic at one intersection.

Others in the area argued with them, removing some of the metal barriers that protesters carried into the street.

Even as the latest violence wound down, a fundamental divide suggests the protests in the former British colony are far from over.

Office workers joined protesters at lunch time in the central business district to show support for the movement, as they have every day since last week. Police kept the crowds on the sidewalks, so they wouldn’t block traffic.

The city sent inspectors to examine the damage to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, as workers used heavy equipment to remove the debris left on the approach road.

Protesters set fire to the toll booths during their occupation of Polytechnic University, which overlooks the approach. The road tunnel is one of three connecting Hong Kong island with the rest of the city.