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AFP
November 20, 2019

HK protesters explore sewers in campus escape bid

World

AFP
November 20, 2019

HONG KONG: Arms covered in cling film and torches in hand as they drop into the sewers, clusters of pro-democracy protesters still inside a Hong Kong campus are plotting increasingly ingenious -- and desperate -- ways to escape a police siege.

Among the detritus of a scorched and graffiti-sprayed concourse at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, several plastic covers -- some with torches placed above them -- betray extraordinary underground escape plans.

Protesters have removed metal manholes, some making exploratory forays into the fetid tunnels, following rumours of successful exfiltrations from a campus ringed for three days by baton-wielding police determined to arrest them.

Pockets of protesters, some with thick bandages wrapped around their knees in anticipation of a long crawl to freedom, knot the holes discussing an unlikely -- and highly dangerous -- breakout.

AFP reporters saw one group on their stomachs practising crawling. Another group hugged each other in consolation after apparently agreeing not to take the route down into the unknown.

"The people outside can’t help us," a protester told local television as he prepared to descend into a sewer. "So what can we do?" One protester, gas mask on, and cling film wrapped around his arms, carried a torch as he descended with his backpack down the metal rungs into the subterranean gloom. Desperation has stalked the protesters for two days since an occupation of the city centre campus turned into a police siege.

"We can get through today... I don’t know about tomorrow," Fung, 43, a kitchen volunteer helping feed protesters in a campus canteen told AFP on Monday.

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