Night Campus, Hong Kong-style

Dahlan Iskan former Minister of State-Owned Enterprises

IO – The final puzzle of “demos” in Hong Kong has been answered. Last Sunday night 

That night the radical group returned to their headquarters: at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The number is around 1200 people. 

They have controlled the 7-hectare campus for a few days before. The lecture stopped. It’s already become the headquarters of the demonstrators. 

Demonstrators build guard posts at the entrance. They use makeshift materials: bamboo, wood, and cardboard. 

Two days later the post got better: made of piles of bricks. 

All who want to enter campus are checked. They just want to block the police from entering the campus. Especially those in plain clothes. 

They then named the Polytechnic campus as ‘Shaolin Temple’. 

Since then the demo pattern has changed. Demonstrators start using guerrilla tactics. The demo center remains in Kowloon – across from Hong Kong Island. Especially on Nathan Road. 

Every time they disbanded, they ran into the see-through streets. After the police passed by, they reappeared on Nathan Road. The media in Hong Kong described it as a ‘Tom & Jerry’ tactic. 

The highlight of all the demonstrations is the blocking of the underwater tunnel – which connects the city center on Hong Kong Island with the city center in Kowloon. 

Demonstrators controlled one of the tunnels for 4 days. Traffic in the two regions was very chaotic. 

The police finally regained control of the tunnel. Demonstrators concentrated on two campuses: The Polytechnic and Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

Especially at the Polytechnic. Its location is closer to the daily demo center. 

As for Chinese University, also in Kowloon, the campus is too broad: 137 hectares. It’s a bit far too. 

These two campuses have received informal titles as ‘struggle campuses’. The students are always involved in political demonstration activities. Since 1960. Until the big demo in 2014. And now this. 

The Kowloon area is indeed considered a poor ‘village’ area, while the Hong Kong Island region is considered to be richer and classier. 

The two campuses are considered different from Hongkong University, which is located on Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong U is known as an elite university – English-speaking and originally part of the British heritage. Father of Chinese independence Dr. Sun Yat-sen is an alumnus of the Hong Kong U Medical School. 

The control of the Polytechnic campus by the demonstrators lasted until Sunday night. 

That week, after a radical wing broke into the Polytechnic campus, something unexpected happened: the doors to the campus were blocked by police. 

Only one door remained open: the one near Building Y. That was guarded by the police. Those who enter and exit Door Y had to pass the inspection. 

The Polytechnic also has two security doors. Outside the police guarded the door. Somewhat inside the demonstrators guarded the other door. 

This polytechnic has 27,000 students. There are so many buildings. There are Buildings A to Z. Complete facilities. It even has a hotel – for student internships majoring in tourism. 

The sports facilities are very complete. Even with an arena for riding a horse. 

The laboratory is also modern. Many chemicals are stored there. 

Suddenly the demonstrators on campus were locked up by the police. 

Demonstrators split. Some were scared and anxious. There is also an increasingly angry and radical mob. The destruction was more felt on campus. They were throwing bottle bombs at the police. Including the giant slingshots. 

9 pm arrived. 

The police spread an announcement: that they leave the campus. 

Those who stay inside will be considered rioters. 

Then rumors circulated among activists: those who left the campus would be immediately arrested. 

That night the demonstrators have split in two again. Some wanted to leave campus. Some were determined to persist. 50:50 position. 

There was a split in them. Groups who want to leave campus are considered traitors. 

A large number of demonstrators crowded to the exit. It is unclear whether they want to leave campus or wanted to attack the police at the front door. 

The police also sprayed tear gas. They retreated again to the campus. 

Some try to get out through other channels. Requested through the door that was determined earlier. Failed. Blocked by the police. 

Some are more determined: jump into the toll road with a rope. Down there was someone who picked them up.

It lasts for 5 minutes until found out. The location was blocked. 

The police made another announcement: they had to leave campus that night. Through the inspection door. With empty hands. 

A moment later the group of journalists and health workers left the campus. Allowed. But several online journalists were arrested. Also campus/school reporters. Only reporters from known media were allowed to leave. 

The online reporter was finally allowed to leave. After the journalists’ union there intervened. 

Medical personnel were allowed to enter. Some who were sick were allowed to be taken out. 

What remains feels increasingly cooped up. That night they prepared themselves for the worst: the police would storm into the campus. 

So, they made more bottle bombs. Among other things by taking chemicals from the university lab. 

To the extent that an assessment emerged ‘the campus had turned into a bomb factory’. The loss of chemicals from the lab was considered to threaten public safety. 

Throughout the night, someone left the campus. 

Some passed the inspection. Some were immediately arrested. One of those arrested was a student from Taiwan. Politicians in Taiwan were also alarmed. 

At midnight, politicians and community leaders lobbied the police. So that those under 18 years are allowed to leave. Likewise, the women. For those who wanted. 

The police allow it. Still, they must pass the examination. Some of them must report. 

As of Monday morning, the ‘campus siege’ was still ongoing. The police did not storm inside. 

Many parents also stay off campus. Awaiting the fate of their children. 

They continue to receive news from inside. Via cellphone. That they are getting tired. Lack of sleep. Lack of food. 

Until Monday at 9 am there are still around 700 people on campus. 

Monday afternoon passed. Monday night passed without a break-in. But those who are on campus are suffering: tired, sleepy, hungry. 

Is this the way for the police to isolate the radical line? Or is there a foreign element between them? What will they finally reveal? 

I have been watching this demo since it started: June 9, five months ago. So long this Hong Kong demo took place. Such a long period of tug of war between the police and the demonstrators. 

I didn’t expect the campus scene to end like that.