Hong Kong police surround university as violent standoff with students continues

By Ben Westcott, Jessie Yeung and Steve George, CNN

Updated 10:14 PM ET, Mon November 18, 2019
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8:39 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

It's 9:30 p.m. in Hong Kong. Here's what you need to know.

Protesters set a fire as they march to Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Monday.
Protesters set a fire as they march to Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Monday. Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong has seen almost six months of protests — but over the past week, the clashes between police and protesters have become more violent.

Protesters have occupied the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and despite police orders to leave, there is a small group — between 100 to 1,000 protesters — still inside.

Here is the latest:

  • Campus battle: Protesters have occupied the university since early Thursday, and police have been trying to clear them since Sunday morning. It's now Monday evening, and though many protesters have fled, some still remain inside.
  • Anxious parents: Parents of students who are believed to be on the campus have gathered near the school to hold a sit-in and urge police to release their children immediately, according to a post on Facebook by pro-democracy politician Jeremy Tan.
  • Violent clashes: At least 66 people have been injured today. Police allowed Hong Kong Red Cross onto campus to treat the injured, and six of the people they treated were taken to hospital.
  • Assault rifles: Police have been spotted carrying assault rifles — a rare sight in Hong Kong. A police spokesman said they have live rounds inside and police will use them if necessary.
  • Protest diversions: Demonstrators have gathered in other areas to try to distract police and help their fellow protesters who are on campus to escape. There have been a number of clashes in Jordan, where police have fired tear gas.
  • Next week's elections: Hong Kong is set to hold local elections next week, but a government official said the chances of them being held had been reduced.
8:21 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Here's how many people have been injured in today's violence

An 84-year-old is among at least 66 people to have received hospital treatment for injuries related to protests in multiple locations across Hong Kong today, according to health authorities.

Some people were injured at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which protesters have occupied for days -- and which has been under siege by police for more than 24 hours.

Police allowed Red Cross to enter the campus this afternoon to treat those hurt in the ongoing clashes.

A Red Cross spokesperson told CNN the group treated up to 50 injured protesters inside the campus on Monday -- and six of those were sent to hospital.

It's not clear whether the six hospitalized were included in the Hospital Authority's figures.

According to the spokesperson, all of those treated were teenagers or young adults.

According to its website, the Red Cross has helped more 2,100 people with first aid and psychological support since the unrest began in June.

Injured people are taken away after clashes between anti-government protesters and police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 18, 2019.
Injured people are taken away after clashes between anti-government protesters and police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 18, 2019. Photo by Laurel Chor/Getty Images

7:44 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Protesters are trying to lure police away from university siege

From CNN's Helen Regan and Anna Coren in Jordan

Hundreds of protesters are trying to provoke police in the streets of Kowloon in a bid to lure them away from the nearby siege at Polytechnic University.

It's unclear if their plan is working, but it's a tense scene on Nathan Road in Jordan. Police have fired tear gas, and protesters have thrown petrol bombs and chanted, "Hong Kong people, take revenge!"

As many as 1,000 protesters are estimated to be holed up on the university campus. One Nathan Road protester -- who asked to be called Josh -- said he was hoping to distract police.

"We don't want to leave anyone behind," he told CNN. "We hope to save our friends in Polytechnic University.
"I want to use my actions to tell them they are not alone ... We don't want them to lose any hope."

Another protester -- a woman dressed in black and wearing a pink gas mask -- said she had been out for hours.

“We don’t have a masterplan but all of the decisions we make, we try and be safe, and we still want to save them (inside PolyU) and need to distract the police.”

On Monday, police spokesman Kwok Ka-chuen said it was "saddening to see our society being torn apart."

"Hong Kong’s rule of law has been pushed to the brink of total collapse as masked rioters recklessly escalate their violence under the false hope that they can get away with it," he said. "Please join us to put an end to violence before it is too late."

7:35 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Hong Kong leader applauds bravery of police officer shot with arrow

Chief Executive Carrie Lam today commended the bravery of an officer who was shot in the leg with an arrow as police attempted to clear protesters around Polytechnic University.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference on November 11 in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference on November 11 in Hong Kong. Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

In the first post on her verified Facebook page since October 20, Lam said she visited the officer on Monday morning and understood that his surgery had been successful.

"(The police officer) wants to resume work as soon as possible, this kind of bravery and responsibility is touching," she said.

She also referred to the ongoing unrest in the city, saying:

"The violence of the mob continues to escalate."

Lam urged protesters to "obey the police," who have appealed for those still inside Polytechnic University to surrender peacefully.

Police also condemned the arrow attack today. "Without a doubt, this is a murderous act," spokesman Kwok Ka-chuen said. "The arrow could have killed our officer or anyone in the surrounding. We express the strongest condemnation against this indiscriminate violence."

8:26 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

What's going on at Hong Kong Polytechnic University?

Protesters huddle as police fire tear gas in Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 18, 2019.
Protesters huddle as police fire tear gas in Hong Kong Polytechnic University on November 18, 2019. Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP

Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- also known as PolyU -- has been the scene of a 24-hour siege in some of the most violent and dramatic scenes in almost six months of anti-government demonstrations.

Since last week, protesters had used the campus as a base to launch operations to block nearby roads.

Police attempted to clear the area on Sunday, but were met with fierce resistance. Protesters set huge fires to block police advances and launched a barrage of petrol bombs, bricks and other missiles. One officer was shot in the leg with an arrow, as the force responded with round after round of tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

Around 8 a.m. Monday, protesters began leaving the campus, and large numbers could be seen making a break for it. Some were pushed back, however, after police fired tear gas and expanded their cordon. Earlier, protesters had said those attempting to leave were being arrested, and complained that they were being boxed in by the authorities.

There is still a small group of between 100 to 1,000 protesters holed up inside PolyU, despite police orders to leave.

In a press conference Monday, police condemned the "extreme violence" on the campus -- and said they had received a report that toxic and dangerous chemicals had been stolen from the PolyU laboratory.

"A university is supposed to be a breeding ground for young talents but it has unfortunately become a battlefield for criminal and rioters. The PolyU campus in Hung Hom has been turned into a weapon factory where an arsenal of weapons were made and stored," a police spokesman said.

PolyU isn't the first university to be caught up in the ongoing unrest. Last week, protesters focused their attention on the prestigious Chinese University of Hong Kong, a sprawling and isolated campus in the New Territories.

Protesters holed up in the university for four days, fending off police who attempted to enter before bringing the occupation to an abrupt end last Friday.

8:26 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Chaos has "reduced" the likelihood of local elections going ahead as planned, official says

Hong Kongers were due to go to the polls for local elections on Sunday -- but with chaotic scenes across the city, they could be postponed.

Constitutional Affairs Secretary Patrick Nip said the likelihood of the elections going ahead as scheduled had been “reduced” due to the protests.

The situation over the past weekend has obviously reduced the chance of holding the election as scheduled, and I’m very worried and anxious about this,” Nip said.
"I must say that postponing the election is a difficult decision to make and we would not take this step unless absolutely necessary."

He said that for the election to be held safely, the violence had to stop, road blocks needed to be cleared and the destruction of transport facilities had to end.

The government is now working full steam in preparing for the election but the urgent task is to stop violence," Nip said.

Hong Kong only has a partial democracy -- the public can vote for district council and legislative council representatives, but the vast majority of people don't get to vote for the city's leader, the chief executive.

Protesters say canceling elections could further restrict Hong Kong's democracy, which they fear is already being eroded by the mainland Chinese government.

Learn more about Hong Kong democracy -- and the city's relationship with China -- here.

6:14 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

There's tear gas along one of Hong Kong's most iconic shopping strips. But onlookers are still out and about

From CNN's Helen Regan in Jordan

Normally a popular shopping district packed with tourists, Nathan Road remains a drawcard for some amid the tense stand-off between police and protesters.

Most days, the major arterial hub is bustling with activity. Today, it's been a hotspot for protests. Hundreds of protesters are still out, with police firing tear gas every now and then.

Despite the discomfort, plenty of bystanders are watching from the sidelines.

“I am so sad, look at this,” said one women, who is visiting from Los Angeles and staying nearby.

“The Hong Kong government is the worst, but also should these kids be doing this? They feel they have no other way. It's such a mess."

Onlookers on the pavement of Nathan Road, Jordan
Onlookers on the pavement of Nathan Road, Jordan Helen Regan

5:50 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Police have assault rifles with live ammunition. And say they are prepared to use them

Hong Kong police have been seen carrying what appear to be assault rifles, with one senior officer saying they are prepared to use them if necessary.

The rifles were seen on Nathan Road, Kowloon -- not around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus, which has been a major flashpoint today.

Cheuk Hau-yip, regional commander of Kowloon West, told CNN the weapons contain live ammunition.

"We are police officers and we control the level of force. If the weapon is on view it is ready to use," he said.

Police have regularly fired tear gas and rubber bullets since the protests began in June, but it is extremely rare for officers to be seen carrying assault rifles.

It is also extremely rare for them to use live rounds. Police first used lethal force in October, with one protester injured by live fire. Another protester was shot in the torso last week.

5:17 a.m. ET, November 18, 2019

Main road occupied as protesters try to divert police attention

From CNN's Helen Regan in Kowloon

Protesters on Nathan Road, Kowloon, take cover under umbrellas and makeshift shields. Helen Regan/CNN
Protesters on Nathan Road, Kowloon, take cover under umbrellas and makeshift shields. Helen Regan/CNN

It's 6.p.m. in Hong Kong and hundreds of protesters are still occupying Nathan Road -- one of the main arteries through Kowloon.

Police have pushed protesters north, with the demonstrators huddling under umbrellas and makeshift shields.

It's been a cat-and-mouse chase all day with neither side giving up much ground.

Protesters have been attempting to divert police resources so that those still inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- which is just a few hundred meters away (around 600 feet) -- can escape.

The number of protesters still barricaded inside the university is estimated at between 100 to 1,000. They have occupied the site since Thursday, despite repeated police clearance attempts.