HONG KONG - The president of the Polytechnic University under siege in Hong Kong, has said he has brokered a truce with police that would allow the hundreds of protesters trapped inside the campus to leave peacefully.
Teng Jin-Guang Teng said he received assurances from police for a temporary suspension of the use of force if the protesters do not initiate the violence.
“We have also received permission from the police for you to leave the campus peacefully, and I will personally accompany you to the police station to ensure that your case will be fairly processed,” Teng said.
It is unclear whether and when the truce was taking effect.
Dozens of student protesters, however, made another frantic attempt to escape the university that has been surrounded by riot police, as the siege on the campus entered a second day.
Waves of students fled on foot late Monday, running through clouds of tear gas as they attempted to break through police lines.
It was the second concerted attempt by students to flee the urban campus, which has been surrounded by police who have repeatedly warned they will use lethal force.
Live feeds showed riot police chasing down students, some of whom were covered in blood. It wasn’t immediately clear how many were arrested and how many may have escaped the campus successfully.
The clashes raised fears that the siege would end in a deadly crackdown.
Students barricaded themselves on the campus, and several others across Hong Kong, early last week, stockpiling homemade weapons such as petrol bombs, slingshots and bricks.
The students and police have engaged in intense but sporadic clashes for the past 24 hours. Police have intermittently tried to break through protester barricades but were driven back by the protesters.
Early Monday, VOA saw police arrest dozens of students, who were detained with plastic wire ties around their wrists. Some were marched in front of reporters as they were taken away toward waiting police vans.
“I can’t imagine this happening in Hong Kong. We are a civilized city and we are witnessing so many uncivilized acts,” said a young man nicknamed Ronald, who came out to witness the campus siege firsthand. “We all have something in common and we all want to achieve the same thing.
“In my opinion, (the students) are not really violent. They are acting in response to the police force,” he said.
Thousands of riot and other police have surrounded the urban campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for the past day, warning the students to drop their weapons. But a hardcore group shows no signs of surrender. A student protester who was in contact with friends inside the campus told VOA that as many as several hundred may be present.
Earlier, police said they were arresting students on riot-related charges.
The number of casualties isn't clear. Police on Sunday warned they would use lethal force if they continued to be attacked. Local media reports said live rounds were used in several cases.
The clashes are some of the worst violence since anti-government protests began in Hong Kong five months ago.
Overnight, police advanced in waves, firing tear gas and water cannons, as protesters lobbed petrol bombs and other weapons. At one point, an armored police vehicle appeared to be completely on fire.
Police have also engaged in clashes with protesters on streets outside the campus, some of whom appeared to be trying to come to the rescue of the besieged students. Calls on social messaging sites issued calls for Hong Kongers to stream in from all directions to help free the students.
Since June, Hong Kong has seen massive, regular demonstrations, which started in opposition to a proposed bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to the mainland. The protests quickly morphed into wider calls for democracy and opposition to growing Chinese influence.
A smaller group of hardcore protesters, many of whom are college students, have also increasingly engaged in more aggressive tactics — clashing with police, destroying public infrastructure, and vandalizing symbols of state power. The students have defended the tactics as a necessary response to police violence and the government's refusal to accept their demands.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University is one of at least five campuses where students this week barricaded themselves in, blocking roads and collecting makeshift weapons in case of an attack by authorities. Most of the protesters had left the other campuses by Saturday, though a group of hardcore protesters remained at Polytechnic.
The protests escalated in the past week, following the first death of a protester who fell from a building during clashes between protesters and police.