World

HK protesters to stage Thanksgiving demonstration

Braced for more violence, police say they will enter blockaded university to clean up before lifting siege

HONG KONG: The lunchtime protest crowd was much smaller in Hong Kong yesterday compared to the turnout before the weekend's elections, with about 400 people gathering at areas such as Central and Kwun Tong, blocking roads and disrupting traffic, the South China Morning Post reported.

The authorities are hoping that a lull in clashes over the weekend during local elections, where pro-democracy candidates scored a landslide victory, sweeping around 86 per cent of the 452 district council seats, will translate into more calm after nearly six months of turmoil.

But more protests are on the way.

Today, a Thanksgiving protest has been scheduled in appreciation of the US Congress passing legislation supporting protesters, reported Reuters. Thanksgiving, a US national holiday celebrating the blessings of the past year, is today.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong police said yesterday that they will enter a blockaded university to clean up hazardous material before lifting a 10-day siege, after civilian search teams found no evidence of any protesters still holding out.

Police district chief Ho Yun Sing said safety teams comprising explosive disposal experts will move into Polytechnic University this morning to gather evidence and remove stockpiles of dangerous items including petrol bombs and corrosive liquid.

The decision came after university search teams completed a second day combing the trash-littered campus and failed to find anyone left behind, reported AP.

On Tuesday, one person was found - a young woman in a weak condition.

"Our ultimate goal is to restore the safety of the campus and to reopen the campus as soon as possible," Mr Ho said, adding that university staff will assist in the cleanup.

VANDALISED

The university earlier said in a statement that many laboratories and facilities had been vandalised, and that some chemicals and dangerous goods were missing, AP reported.

About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape the blockade.

The city's largest pro-establishment party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, urged the authorities to send medics to the site to take any remaining protesters to hospital, Reuters reported.

Demonstrators have been protesting for months as they are angry at what they see as Beijing's meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China denies interfering and says it is committed to the "one country, two systems" formula put in place at that time.

The Polytechnic University campus was the last of five that protesters had occupied to use as bases from which to disrupt the city, blocking the nearby Cross-Harbour Tunnel linking Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and other arteries.

The protesters had blocked the tunnel's mouth, smashed toll booths, lit fires and cemented bricks to the road, but the tunnel was reopened early yesterday, and Hong Kong television showed a steady flow of vehicles passing through.

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