A small band of anti-government protesters, their numbers diminished by surrenders and failed escape attempts, remained holed up at a Hong Kong university early Wednesday as they braced for the endgame in a police siege of the campus.
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Police were waiting them out after 10 days of some of the most intense protests the city has seen in more than five months of often-violent unrest gripping the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Since the siege began Sunday, more than 1,000 people were arrested and hundreds of injured treated at hospitals, authorities said.
The government has stood firm, rejecting most of the protesters’ demands. The demonstrators shut down major roads and trains during rush hour every day last week as they turned several university campuses into fortresses and blocked a major road tunnel, which remained closed Tuesday.
Even as the latest violence wound down, a fundamental divide suggests the protests are far from over.
In Beijing, the National People’s Congress criticized Hong Kong’s high court for striking down a ban on wearing face masks at the protests, in a decree that has potentially ominous implications for the city’s vaunted rule of law and independent judiciary. China’s Communist leaders have taken a tough line on the protests and said that restoring order is the highest priority.
Meanwhile, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was barred from going on a European speaking tour, after a court refused to change his bail conditions to let him travel outside Hong Kong.
Protesters have left all the universities except Hong Kong Polytechnic, where hundreds had barricaded themselves and fought back police barrages of tear gas and water cannons with gasoline bombs, some launched from rooftops by catapult, and bows and arrows.