The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday warned of a potential humanitarian crisis as clashes intensified between police and protesters at Hong Kong Polytechnic University yesterday, and called on both sides to show restraint to avoid further escalation.
Polytechnic Students’ Union president Woo Kwok-wang (胡國泓), who was still on the campus in Hung Hom, Kowloon, as of yesterday afternoon, said there were about 500 protesters inside, adding that about 70 to 100 people tried to leave the campus, but were met with tear gas fired by police.
A MAC news release said that there might be hundreds of people stranded inside the Polytechnic campus, which poses a serious threat to campus democracy and safety, and could even lead to a humanitarian crisis.
The council said it condemns all types of violence and the use of lethal force in cracking down on protesters.
It urged all sides to remain calm, exercise self-control and solve the problems through peaceful negotiations to avoid the situation from worsening and scarring society.
The council called on Taiwanese in Hong Kong to be careful of their safety as clashes become more intense and spread to more areas.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong has established an ad hoc task force to respond to the situation, including a 24-hour emergency assistance hotline (852-6143-9012) for Taiwanese who need emergency help.
More than 60 percent of the 1,021 Taiwanese studying in the territory have returned home, the Ministry of Education said yesterday in a statement.
That includes more than 60 percent of those at the Polytechnic, and 261 from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, it said.
Meanwhile, National Sun Yat-sen University yesterday said two academics from Hong Kong universities — a foreign professor emeritus and a Taiwanese professor — have applied for jobs at the school this month.
Both have passed the reviews for recruitment and can start their new jobs in February, at the earliest, the Kaohsiung school said.
University president Cheng Ying-yao (鄭英耀) said the chaotic situation in Hong Kong has caused universities there to cut their semesters short.
If this results in interruptions to scientific experiments or data collection, or the destruction of databases, the schools might need a few years to repair the damage, Cheng said.
The damage is not limited to science and engineering fields, but also affects the academic freedom of humanities departments, he said, adding that academics cannot conduct research when feeling anxious.
National Taiwan University vice president Chou Chia-pei (周家蓓) said it is hard to tell at the moment whether there would be an exodus of academics in Hong Kong, because the salaries and research funding there are much higher than in Taiwan.
However, if social instability causes important studies to be suspended, it might affect the territory’s research capacity, she added.
Additional reporting by CNA
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