Hong Kong authorities appeal for calm as major highway reopens

Hong Kong authorities appeal for calm as major highway reopens

Cross-Harbour Tunnel (4)
Debris blocks the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, normally one of the busiest roads in Hong Kong, outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University where students and protesters have barricaded themselves in on Nov 14, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Isaac Lawrence)

HONG KONG: One of Hong Kong's main highway links, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, reopened early on Wednesday (Nov 27) as a lockdown of the nearby Polytechnic University appeared to be drawing to a close with teams still combing the campus for remaining protesters.

Hong Kong authorities hope that a lull in clashes over the weekend during local elections, where pro-democracy candidates grabbed a landslide victory, can translate into more calm after nearly six months of turmoil.


Chinese authorities reiterated a need "to stop the violence and restore order" after the election.

hong kong protests cross harbour tunnel reopens
Commuters drive past toll booths at the reopened Cross Harbour Tunnel early on Nov 27, 2019, two weeks after the key route in Hong Kong was closed off by protesters stationed in and around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

READ: Hong Kong PolyU campus searched, just one protester found

Reuters also reported that China's leaders had set up a crisis command centre in the Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, to deal with protests that have become the biggest populist challenge since China's leader Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Despite the euphoria among protesters over the electoral victory, in which democracy advocates swept around 86 per cent of the 452 district council seats, fresh protests are planned for the weekend, including a "no tear gas to children march".

The city-wide elections drew a record turnout and were seen as a vote of no-confidence against Beijing-backed Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam over her handling of the financial hub's worst crisis in decades.

hong kong cross harbour tunnel reopen
Commuters drive past toll booths at the reopened Cross Harbour Tunnel early on Nov 27, 2019, two weeks after the key route in Hong Kong was closed off by protesters stationed in and around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

READ: Hong Kong leader admits local elections revealed 'unhappiness' with government

The restoration of vehicular traffic through the Cross-Harbour Tunnel in the early hours of Wednesday came after anti-government protesters barricaded themselves in the Polytechnic University and blocked the tunnel mouth almost two weeks ago.

Toll booths were smashed, fires lit and bricks concreted onto the highway, severely disrupting traffic between Hong Kong island and the Kowloon peninsula.

Protesters clash with police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong
A police armoured truck burns as it was hit with Molotov cocktails, after an attempt to ram the barricade at a bridge above the entrance to the Cross Harbour Tunnel during clashes outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong Nov 17, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

Hong Kong television showed a steady flow of vehicles surging into the tunnel when it reopened.

Police still guarded the perimeter of the Polytechnic University as a security team prepared to scour the campus for a second day, seeking protesters who may still be hiding in the maze of buildings.

The red-brick university was turned into a battleground in mid-November when nearly a thousand protesters barricaded themselves inside and clashed with riot police in a hail of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas.

Police later formed a security cordon around the campus to trap those inside, eventually making hundreds of arrests. A small number are still believed to be inside.

One Hong Kong newspaper, Sing Pao, published a front-page spread for the second successive day calling for Lam's resignation. "Hong Kong people had enough, Carrie Lam quit," it read.

hong kong cross harbour tunnel protests
Commuters drive past toll booths at the reopened Cross Harbour Tunnel early on Nov 27, 2019, two weeks after the key route in Hong Kong was closed off by protesters stationed in and around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997.

China denies interfering and says it is committed to the "one country, two systems" formula put in place at that time.

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: Reuters/nc

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