Clashes Intensify Between Hong Kong Protesters And Police
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Molotov cocktails and bow and arrows on one side, tear gas and armored vehicles on the other. Clashes in the streets of Hong Kong between pro-democracy activists and police intensified overnight. And things really escalated when police tried to storm the campus of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSIONS)
GREENE: The confrontation on the grounds of the university are some of the most violent our colleagues on the ground have seen since the protests first erupted. One police officer was hit in the leg by an arrow while protesters suffered eye injuries and hypothermia after being struck by a water cannon. That's according to student leaders. A short while ago, we spoke to one lawmaker who supports the protest movement. It's pro-democracy Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung.
ALVIN YEUNG: Over the past week, we have seen an escalation of violence in Hong Kong. In the past week, we've seen police trying to invade two universities. The first one was Chinese University, and they did not succeed. And right now, they are surrounding a Polytech University in Hong Kong. I'm now outside the police line near Polytech Universities with some ordinary citizens trying to show our support. We understand at the time we are talking there are around 500 to 800 students and protesters inside the university.
GREENE: So they're inside. I mean, are they able to come out if they want to? Because I've seen some reports that they're essentially trapped in there.
YEUNG: We understand that police will have to arrest them. And, of course, knowing that police brutality has been quite serious over the past five months, protesters, mainly made up by young men and women, they are extremely concerned regarding their own safety.
GREENE: Now, I do want to ask you - I mean, you used the term invade, saying that the police invaded this university and one other one. I have read that the protesters themselves have also, it sounds like, committed some acts of violence firing arrows at police, Molotov cocktails. Are you aware of that?
YEUNG: Well, even so, if protesters have committed any crime, all the police has to do is to arrest them but do not apply any excessive force. But over the past five months, we have seen that police brutality has been quite serious applying on ordinary citizens.
GREENE: Do you see this as a turning point, this standoff that we're seeing today at Polytech University?
YEUNG: Of course, we do not want to see any violence, but this sort of standoff right now that is taking place right now is very concerning. Hong Kong people fear that we are going to repeat another June Fourth (ph) massacre that might take place in Hong Kong. We are trying everything we can to avoid that from happening.
GREENE: Now, I know that one of the chief demands was to withdraw this extradition law that was put in place, and that has been done. I mean, is there one more act or something that the government could do that might satisfy these protesters and calm this down?
YEUNG: In any civilized society, police brutality is not something so uncommon. But when there is an event or some scandal happened, a responsible government would appoint a commission of inquiry that would independently look into misconduct. But this government is basically refusing over and over again. More importantly, we are demanding for democracy. Right now, Hong Kong International Financial Centre, we still fail to choose our own chief executive. One person do not have one vote. This is something that was promised by Beijing in a basic law that is a mini constitution. But we're still not seeing that from happening.
GREENE: We have a reporter on the ground in Hong Kong who said that people were worried because some members of the Chinese military were actually out on the streets in civilian clothing cleaning up some debris but that that was an ominous sign for some people. What could that mean?
YEUNG: Over the past weekend, we witnessed the Liberation Army from China, they step out of their barricades in civilian clothing claiming that they voluntarily clean up the streets for Hong Kong people. But this is a clear violation of the basic law and the spirit of one country, two system. If they say they could voluntarily clean up the street, tomorrow they could voluntarily do something else. And that is unacceptable.
GREENE: Alvin Yeung, thank you so much for joining us.
YEUNG: Thank you, David.
GREENE: That was Alvin Yeung. He's a lawmaker in Hong Kong who's been supportive of the protests. He's a leader with the Hong Kong Civic Party. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.