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Chinese University of Hong Kong conflict

2019 Chinese University of Hong Kong conflict (Chinese: 中大衝突) is a conflict as part of the 2019 Hong Kong protests. As protesters disrupted traffic in order to facilitate a general strike on November 11, protesters inside Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) threw objects onto railway tracks near the University station, and began confronting with the police, who shot volleys of tear gas into the campus. The next day saw the two groups clashing with each other again for nearly an entire day, with the police storming into campus to conduct arrest, while the protesters, in response, threw petrol bombs. At night, vice-chancellor and president Rocky Tuan arrived to seek meditation with the police, which rejected any form of negotiation. The conflict escalated into widespread protests in various parts of Hong Kong in an attempt to divert the police's attention.[2] At least 70 students were injured.

2019 Chinese University of Hong Kong conflict
Part of 2019 Hong Kong protests
Hong Kong IMG 20191113 192427 (49060917381).jpg
Protesters guarding the No. 2 Bridge of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on 13 November
Date11 November 2019 – 15 November 2019 (5 days)
07:30 – 22:00
Location
Chinese University of Hong Kong campus and other districts
Caused byThe police attempted to seize control of the No. 2 Bridge of the Chinese University of Hong Kong in order to prevent the protesters from blocking the Tolo Highway
Resulted inProtesters retreated after fending off the police advance, some headed to Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Parties to the civil conflict
  • Protesters
  • University students
Injuries and arrests
Injuries70+
Arrested287+[1]

Protesters briefly occupied the university from 13 to 15 November and set up barricades and makeshift weapons inside the university campuses. Other university students also barricaded their school after the siege. The majority of the protesters left the campus by 15 November, with some leaving for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which was besieged by the police on 17 November.

The police received criticisms for storming into the university campus, though it defended the act, saying that the campus was a "weapon factory". Parallels have been drawn with June Struggle, where protesters from Yonsei University clashed with the police in 1987.

BackgroundEdit

As the number of allegations against the Hong Kong Police Force during the 2019 Hong Kong protests continued to increase and the government continued to ignore the protesters' five core demands, violence from both the protesters and the police has escalated significantly.[3] The death of Chow Tsz Lok, who died after falling one floor in a car park in Sheung Tak Estate, Tseung Kwan O, led to widespread anger in Hong Kong.[4] While the cause of his death is unknown, protesters accused the police of obstructing paramedics from attending to him, resulting in a delay in treatment.[5] Netizens began calling for a general strike, which would be facilitated by the obstruction of traffic during rush hours.[6] Protesters dubbed the strategy as "Operation Dawn".[7] Protesters inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong were also involved in paralsying the traffic.[7]

HistoryEdit

11 NovemberEdit

Students inside the CUHK began throwing objects into MTR tracks, while the police set up a defense parameter at the No.2 Bridge. At 8 am, the police confronted with the protesters at No. 2 Bridge, and at 11:00 pm, the police shot fire volleys of tear gas into the school campus.[8] The protesters reacted by using incendiary bombs. Very soon after, the CUHK announced the suspension of lessons for that day.[9]

12 NovemberEdit

 
The police shot numerous volleys of tear gas into the campus of CUHK on November 12.

On the second day, protesters continued to launch attempts to block the traffic. Students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) began to throw objects onto the train tracks of the East Rail Line and blocked major roads nearby.[10] Starting from 7 am, the police began a standoff with the protesters, who attempted to stop the police from clearing the roadblocks set on the bridge. Vice-presidents of CUHK attempted to negotiate with the police, who was willing to retreat back. However, the agreement broke as the police advanced and began firing tear gas into the campus, while the student protesters, in response, hurled bricks and petrol bombs. The police entered the university through the No.2 Bridge, arrested several people inside the campus, and shot several canisters of tear gas and rubber bullets inside Sir Philip Haddon-Cave Sports Field. Some students also broke into the school's storage room and retrieved bows and arrows.[11]

In the evening, alumni of CUHK, including businessman Ricky Wong, returned to CUHK to stand in solidarity with the student protesters.[12] CUHK vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan was at the scene and attempted to negotiate with police representatives on retreating; police responded by rejecting the request for negotiation and ordering Tuan to leave immediately,[13] saying that he was not able to control the situation. Students also demanded the police to release the students the police had arrested inside CUHK. At around 7:30 pm, while Tuan was still on campus, the police began firing tear gas at the protesters, who, in response, hurled a large number of petrol bombs, forcing the police to retreat from their initial position.[14] At 10 pm, the police for a short time deployed water cannon trucks, while protesters threw petrol bombs to stop them from advancing. The police issued a statement about 10 minutes later to announce that they would be retreating from campus in order to stop the situation from further escalating. Former president of CUHK Joseph Sung Jao-yiu arrived at the campus on 10:30 pm in an attempt to deescalate the situation.[15]

To divert the police's attention, protesters instigated conflicts in various districts. Protesters marched into the Festival Walk mall in Kowloon Tong after the mall closed early and set a giant Christmas tree on fire; some glass guard rails and doors were also smashed.[16][17] A China Mobile shop was set on fire in Causeway Bay. In Sheung Shui, a train was firebombed and objects were thrown onto the train track. In Mong Kok, police fired multiple tear gas rounds as protesters blocked roads and vandalized public infrastructure, such as traffic lights and switch boxes.[18] In Tin Shui Wai, protesters besieged and started a fire inside the police station. In Sha Tin, a police van was lit on fire.[19][20]

A volunteer paramedic reported that at least 70 protesters were injured. The university gym room was turned into a field hospital to treat the wounded.[21] Five students arrested inside the campus were charged with the offense of rioting.[22] The police announced that 142 people were arrested on 12 November.[23] 1,567 canisters of tear gas 1,312 shots of rubber bullet, 380 shots of bean bag rounds, and 126 shots have sponge grenades were used by the police to disperse the protesters.[24]

13–14 NovemberEdit

After the confrontations at CUHK and other universities on November 12, protesters turned the university campuses into their strongholds. Supplies were delivered to them by supporters of the protesters from various districts in Hong Kong.[25] Expecting the riot police to return, some of the protesters stayed in CUHK and slept in the car park and the sportsgrounds. In the morning of November 13, protesters fortified the campuses by constructing roadblocks and barricades using bricks and furniture such as tables and chairs at major entrances near the university. Supplies from supporters, including medical bandages and food, were delivered to various universities in Hong Kong. A gym room inside CUHK was converted into a first-aid station.[26] Protesters also practised throwing petrol bombs inside the campus, set up caltrops, took away sports equipment such as bows and arrows, javelins, and rackets, and set up makeshift catapults.[27][28] Media noted that protesters are recreating "Medieval weapons".[29][27]

CUHK senior management cancelled all classes for the remaining semester.[30] The president from the CUHK student union applied an interim injunction to stop the police from entering the university campuses without proper warrant, though the court dismissed the application.[31][32] The police sent one of their boats to CUHK to evacuate a group of mainland Chinese students from the university, after they had expressed concerns with safety at the campus; the police said the students were unable to leave the campus by road due to obstructions.[33] The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong sent representatives to CUHK and arranged 85 Taiwanese students to take the flights to return to Taiwan.[34]

15 NovemberEdit

At 3 am, three masked protesters at CUHK held a press conference. They indicated an intention to reopen one lane in each direction of the Tolo Highway as a symbol of good faith, demanding the government to hold the 2019 Hong Kong local elections as scheduled on 24 November, release arrested people and establish an independent commission of inquiry within 24 hours.[35] In a statement, the CUHK Students' Union stated that they questioned the three protesters' plan to open the highway to traffic, and that none of their members participated in the press conference.[36] Protesters cleared one lane in each direction at 6 am;[37] however, the Transport Department kept the highway closed due to safety concerns.[38] The highway was officially reopened at 12 pm.[39] Protesters blocked the highway again at 7:30 pm after Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung rejected their demands.[40][41]

Protesters began to leave CUHK at Friday night,[42] as divisions within the protester showed up as to whether they should leave the campus. Some argued that the occupation of the university did not align with the fluidity the protesters have exhibited since the protests started in June.[43]

AftermathEdit

As protesters clashed with the police at the CUHK, protesters also barricaded other university campuses, including Hong Kong Baptist University, City University of Hong Kong, and the University of Hong Kong. In addition, many protesters who withdrew from CUHK moved to join the protesters stationing inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Protesters staying in the Polytechnic University began clashing with the police on 17 November. The campus was then besieged by the police, who blocked all the exits of the university campuses, kettling at least 500 protesters.[44] While some surrendered themselves, many, including the wounded, stayed inside the campus without medical care for several days. The siege was the longest confrontation ever to occur since the demonstrations began in June, and was viewed as a setback for protesters as the police arrested more than 1,000 people during the siege. Democrats have called it a "humanitarian crisis".[45]

ResponsesEdit

Academics from the Scholars’ Alliance for Academic Freedom condemned the police operations inside the university campus, calling them "unlawful".[46] According to some South Korean students, the siege of CUHK echoed the June Struggle, where protesters from Yonsei University clashed with the police in 1987.[47] The pro-democracy camp issued an statement asking for international level assistance[48] to save the students[49] and to avoid the repetition of a June 4 Incident[50]. The declaration criticized the actions of police on No. 2 bridge, which intentionally provoked students and showed no willingness of negotiation。The statement also criticized the police for cutting all supplies to CUHK and trying to invade CUHK by constant shooting, which had made many students injure themselves. The camp also expressed distress towards Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and reminded the students to be careful and to protect themselves.[51]

On November 11, President Rocky Tuan contacted the police and urged for them to be calm and resist. The university staff also encouraged the students to leave. Given the tense atmosphere, the security office tried to mediate the situation.[52]. However, some CUHK staff criticized the school for inadequate measures and having no encouragement to ask the police to leave. They also showed empathy and understanding to students' behaviour.[53] The presidents of Hong Kong's public universities released a joint statement expressing regrets that the campuses became occupied by protesters following "societal disagreements". The statement suggested that the protesters occupying the campus were not "originated from the universities, nor can they be resolved through university disciplinary processes" and urged the government to resolve the "political deadlock and to restore safety and public order now".[54]

A spokesperson from the police responded that the Force did not need a warrant to enter the university under the Public Order Ordinances.[19] The Hong Kong Police spokesman warned that the protesters' acts are "another step closer to terrorism",[55] and called CUHK a "weapon factory".[56]

On November 13, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen posted on Facebook highlighting the previous invasions into university campuses by Taiwan police, which seriously harmed the freedom of speech. She urged for international concerns about the situation in Hong Kong.[57][58]

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