An outgoing police commander who oversaw a 13-day siege at a Hong Kong university said on Tuesday no one inside suffered from a “humanitarian crisis”, as alleged by anti-government protesters, and instead accused radicals of causing a crisis for the city’s rule of law.
Cheuk Hau-yip was the Kowloon West regional commander in charge of the long-drawn-out battle with anti-government protesters inside Polytechnic University in Hung Hom, which began on November 17. He said the weapons seized from inside the campus were the most “frenziedly designed” he had ever seen in his 37 years of service.
“Did anyone want to leave the premises which we disallowed? No,” Cheuk said.
“Did anyone need medical attention which we refused? No.
“If they wanted to walk out without consequence, then it has nothing to do with humanity but the rule of law,” he said, rebutting claims police trapped protesters for almost two weeks and denied them basic supplies.
Critics including former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-shan described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis”.
Some protesters tried to escape down a filthy drainage pipe while others abseiled from a bridge to motorbikes waiting below.
“If we allow anyone to walk free after they have trashed a beautiful university, the surrounding area and the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, then it is a crisis for the city’s rule of law,” Cheuk said.
According to the assistant police commander, around 1,500 protesters left the campus in the end. Among them, around 800 adults were arrested and about 400 people were sent to hospital without being arrested on the spot.
He said police were still investigating 324 minors who had their details recorded before being let go. None of the protesters who walked out from PolyU had been prosecuted yet.
“Helping these minors, most of whom were still in secondary school, leave such a dangerous place and get home safely, might be one of the most meaningful things I did during the crazy days of the past six months,” Cheuk said.
After searching the campus for evidence and removing hazardous items, police seized a total of 3,989 petrol bombs, 1,339 pieces of explosives and 601 bottles of corrosive liquid, alongside 573 other items classified as weapons. These included hammers, air guns, 28 bows and about 200 arrows and 12 giant catapults used to launch bricks.
Police earlier described an “assembly line” to make and transfer petrol bombs inside PolyU. What caught Cheuk’s eye was a large canister rounded by sharp nails.
“I have never seen such large quantities of weapons, not to mention such frenziedly designed weapons.”
The siege began on November 17 after pitched battles between protesters hurling petrol bombs and police responding with tear gas turned the campus entrance into a war zone.
Police sealed the exits and asked all those inside to leave with more petrol bombs thrown, including many which set a force armoured car alight. An officer was also shot in the leg by an arrow from a bow.
“The most difficult time was the following dawn,” Cheuk said.
“I felt everyone had just reached madness. Petrol bombs were passed on by human chains and some even bought beer in a convenience store to make more on the spot. Countless petrol bombs were hurled at us,” Cheuk recalled.
The veteran who joined the force aged 17 and spent years battling against Triads, said it was saddening to see protesters take justice into their own hands and trash shops that had opposing views to them.
“I can’t see how the unlawfulness links to the five demands. The attacks are cruel … They trashed shops during business hours. Is there any difference with triad activities? Maybe the protesters are even worse.”
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.