Besieged Hong Kong protesters totally helpless: ex-QUB student
A Hong Kong lawyer who previously studied in Belfast has spoken out about the "hopeless" situation facing protesters involved in a violent standoff with the police.
Around 200 demonstrators barricaded themselves inside the city's Polytechnic University after months of anti-government protests.
Yvonne, who for security reasons did not wish to give her full name, graduated from Queen's University in 2017 with a degree in law and is now a trainee solicitor in Hong Kong. "Students are still hiding in the university," she told this newspaper.
"They are quite helpless and hopeless because they can do nothing but wait and see how they can get away.
"Some of them aren't even joining in the protests but are scared of police."
Arrested protesters are reported to be facing up to 10 years in prison.
According to the solicitor's colleagues, activists held in police stations have complained of torture and inhuman treatment.
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"I've heard (according to local news) of police officers saying they want to recreate June 4, the date of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989," Yvonne said. "This is totally unacceptable and totally cruel to the students."
She also claimed the clashes followed months of the authorities using excessive force. "This has included firing on numerous targets and even shooting people in their eyes," Yvonne said.
"Quite a number of injured have people lost their sight."
With little hope for change on the ground, the trainee solicitor called for greater pressure from the international community. She also noted the US Senate had passed a Bill to support human rights in Hong Kong.
"I'm not saying the university students are correct, but the police force has been given authority to use heavy weaponry," Yvonne said.
"The protesters do not have the same level of weapons or military force.
"The Chinese government is also using this as a chance to modify Hong Kong to a more Chinese society." Ulster University (UU) has an exchange programme with the Polytechnic University.
However, no local students are currently studying in Hong Kong. A UU spokesman said the university would continue to monitor the situation.
"Our global engagement team is keeping in close contact with students from Hong Kong currently studying here at Ulster University and providing support during this difficult time," the spokesman added.