An Irish student who had to leave Hong Kong because of escalating violence, has described how he and other Irish students sheltered in a hotel before deciding to return to Ireland a month early.
It comes after police there used tear gas and batons to fight off protesters as they tried to break through a cordon that is trapping hundreds on a university campus.
Protesters advanced on the police from outside the cordon, while others emerged from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus. Police used tear gas and in some places swooped in to subdue protesters and make arrests.
Protesters have fortified the campus for days to stop police from getting in. They are now trying to get out after being cornered by authorities.
Officers repelled one attempt this morning with tear gas, driving a few hundred protesters back onto the campus.
Rex Lloyd, a student at NUI Galway, told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show that he had been studying at the Baptist University in Hong Kong for his semester abroad and was due to return at Christmas.
He and other Irish students were living on campus where they felt safe until recently when the campus was barricaded and the students were advised to leave.
There were 15 Irish students in total in Hong Kong at the time, he said, seven of them from NUI Galway.
Mr Lloyd said: “We were put up in a hotel and made a group decision that it was time to get out. There were five of us together.”
The students were in contact with the exchange committee in NUI Galway while they were deciding on the best course of action.
He added that he had observed many students in the university getting caught up in the independence movement, but not in the violence.
He said: “Some of them got involved because they didn’t see any alternative.”
Riot officers broke in one entrance before dawn as fires raged inside and outside the school, but they did not appear to get very far. Fiery explosions were seen as protesters responded with petrol bombs.
Many of the students at the university feared the police crackdown and he had been alarmed at the level of police brutality. “They were worried about their friends and family.”
The head of a nationalistic Chinese newspaper said Hong Kong police should use snipers to fire live ammunition at violent protesters.
“If the rioters are killed, the police should not have to bear legal responsibility,” Global Times editor Hu Xijin wrote on his Weibo social media account.