Hong Kong:The siege neared its end as some protesters at Polytechnic University on the Kowloon peninsula desperately sought a way out and others vowed not to surrender, days after some of the worst violence since anti-government demonstrations escalated in June.
“If they storm in, there are a lot of places for us to hide,” said Sam, a 21-year-old student, who was eating two-minute noodles in the cafeteria, while plotting his escape.
Ahead of the District Council election, Hong Kong officials warned the vote could be postponed after some candidates came under attack and the city was paralyzed as protesters blocked roads and riot cops laid siege to a university. Police are dispatching at least two officers clad in riot gear to each polling booth, all of which are set to close at 10:30 p.m. Results are expected in the early morning hours on Monday.
The vote comes at a time of unprecedented political polarization in the city, with divisions hardening as the protests turn more violent. While most Hong Kongers support the protesters’ goals of an independent inquiry into police abuses and meaningful elections, they’re also increasingly getting fed up with tactics including vandalizing transport networks, seizing universities and using medieval-style weapons.
“It’s kind of a referendum on the government and everything that’s happened over the past five months,” said Chi-Jia Tschang, who worked at Goldman Sachs for nearly a decade and is now a senior director in the Hong Kong office of BowerGroupAsia, which advises companies on business and political risk in the region. “People still want an opportunity to work within the system to have their voices heard. That’s why there’s so much focus on this.”
This time, amid heightened political tension and continuing demonstrations, there will be a contest for every seat in the 18 district councils and more people than ever have signed up to vote.In particular, registered voters aged between 18 and 35 years old alone spiked by more than 12 percent, with 4.1 million people now on the roll, a record high.But the campaign season has also been marred by attacks and arrests.Several democratically-leaning candidates, like Leung, have been assaulted; a dozen others of similar political leanings were caught up in protests and apprehended.