Hong Kong police find 4000 petrol bombs in previously besieged university campus

Police in Hong Kong have re-entered the campus of a university it besieged for more than 10 days last month, gathering newly discovered chemicals and petrol bombs hoarded by anti-government protesters in the Chinese-ruled city.

Riot police and more than 1,000 demonstrators transformed Hong Kong's Polytechnic University campus into a battleground where officers this week retrieved additional dangerous items found among the debris and stowed in locked areas.

Between November 26 and December 2 authorities seized 4,296 petrol bombs, 671 bottles of chemicals and 622 weapons, police said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Officers first entered the Polytechnic campus on November 29, when they collected thousands of petrol bombs, which they dusted for fingerprints, as well as bows and arrows and bottles of chemicals.

The campus conflict began in mid-November when protesters barricaded themselves against riot police in days of violent clashes that marked a significant escalation in the political unrest that has roiled the former British colony for six months.

About 1,100 people were arrested in connection with the campus siege.

Sparked by a controversial and since-withdrawn extradition bill, the protests have swelled into broader calls for greater democratic freedoms.

Those who have joined the pro-democracy demonstrations accuse China of increasingly interfering in freedoms promised to the former British colony when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Pro-democracy parties won a resounding victory in local district council elections late last month. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has appealed for peace in the city but has not offered any concessions.

Sustained demonstrations, scheduled to continue this week and expected to draw thousands to the streets this weekend, show few signs of abating and are taking an economic toll on the global financial hub.

Business activity in Hong Kong contracted at the fastest pace in 21 years in November, dragged down by the protests and softening global demand, an IHS Markit survey showed on Wednesday.

Asia's largest distributor of luxury brands, the Blubell group, has appealed to Hong Kong landlords to scrap the base rent in shopping malls, saying a slump in tourist spending will push even more retailers out of business.

Hong Kong recorded its largest-ever retail collapse in October, with sales dropping 24.3 percent to HK30.1 billion (NZ$5.89 billion), the government said on Monday (local time).

The new figures will extend the technical recession recorded last quarter, with the government preparing to release a fourth round of economic stimulus.

Reuters

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