Hong Kong police have said that they will enter a blockaded university to clean up hazardous material before lifting a 10-day siege, after civilian search teams found no evidence of any protesters still holding out.
Police district chief Ho Yun-sing said safety teams comprising explosive disposal experts will move into Polytechnic University on Thursday morning to gather evidence and remove stockpiles of dangerous items including petrol bombs and corrosive liquid.
The decision came after university search teams completed a ,
second day of combing the rubbish-littered campus and failed to find anyone left behind, Mr Ho said.
On Tuesday, one person was found — a young woman in weak condition.
“Our ultimate goal is to restore the safety of the campus and to reopen the campus as soon as possible,” Mr Ho said, adding that university staff will assist in the clean-up.
The university earlier said in a statement that many laboratories and facilities on the campus had been vandalised and that some chemicals and dangerous goods were missing.
Hardcore protesters occupied the campus nearly two weeks ago after blocking the Cross-Harbour Tunnel and set toll booths on fire during clashes with police. Some 1,100 protesters have left or were arrested by police.
The tunnel, which links Hong Kong Island to the rest of the city, reopened early on Wednesday after a two-week closure, to commuters’ relief.
Calls for police to end their siege escalated after the pro-democracy camp won a stunning victory in local elections on Sunday, delivering a stinging rebuke to city leader Carrie Lam’s tough line on the protests, which are in their sixth month.
Ms Lam has offered no concessions, saying only that she would accelerate dialogue and look for ways to address societal grievances.
A lull in violence that began days before the elections has continued as protesters in the largely leaderless movement weigh their next step amid Ms Lam’s refusal to compromise.
Small, peaceful rallies have popped up this week during lunchtime and at night in some areas.
The protests started in June over an extradition bill seen by protesters as an erosion of their freedoms promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.
The movement has since expanded into a protest over what they see as Beijing’s growing interference in the city.