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UN human rights office urges Hong Kong de-escalation

HONG KONG — The U.N. human rights office is calling on authorities in Hong Kong to do all they can to de-escalate a standoff between security forces and anti-government protesters holed up in a university.

The spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said it is concerned about increasing violence by young people “who are clearly very angry, with deep-seated grievances.”

Colville told reporters in Geneva that most protesters have been demonstrating peacefully, and that authorities had “by and large” respected the right to freedom of assembly.

He urged Hong Kong authorities to “address the humanitarian situation” of protesters at Polytechnic University whose situation was “clearly deteriorating.”

He said the rights office remains concerned about a possible further escalation of violence in Hong Kong.

About 100 people have been holed up in the university for three days.

‘Double standards’

Earlier, China accused America of “double standards” after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Hong Kong government bears the prime responsibility for restoring calm to the former British colony.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday that while the U.S. has “appeared to be fair” concerning pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, it harbors “ulterior intention to intervene … and double standards on violent crimes.”

Geng said efforts by Hong Kong police to enforce the law should not be compared to the violent behavior of “extremist forces.”

Pompeo said Monday that the government must address public concerns because law enforcement alone cannot stop the unrest.

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under a framework that promised the territory certain democratic freedoms not afforded to the mainland.

Police not sure of next step

Hong Kong police spokesman Kwok Ka-chuen says police have not yet decided their next steps to end a standoff at Polytechnic University but are still hoping for a peaceful resolution.

Kwok said at a daily briefing Tuesday, “We will be closely monitoring the situation, will continue to collect intelligence and decide the next step to take.”

Asked whether a deadline had been set for the anti-government protesters inside to surrender, Kwok gave no specifics. He also did not address reports that the authorities are planning to cut power and water to the campus ahead of a final clearance operation.

Estimates of those remaining on campus run from 100 to 300. About 600 have walked out in recent hours, including about 200 minors who were allowed to return home after being questioned and having their photos taken.

Kwok and others said all adults leaving the campus would be arrested on suspicion of rioting and other offenses, based on the degree of violence witnessed at the school and surrounding areas.

Kwok said more than 3,900 gasoline bombs were discovered on another campus, Chinese University, and he expected that large numbers of homemade weapons were also being stored at Polytechnic University.

Activist can’t travel

Pro-democracy group Demosisto says a Hong Kong court has rejected activist Joshua Wong’s appeal to change his bail conditions and travel abroad.

Demosisto said Tuesday on its Facebook page that Hong Kong’s High Court denied Wong’s application to leave the territory, citing the risk that he won’t return.

Wong, who heads Demosisto, was an outspoken leader of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution protests.

Wong and Agnes Chow, another prominent Demosisto member, were arrested in August for allegedly participating in and inciting others to join an unauthorized protest. Wong had just completed a 2-month prison sentence in June.

Demosisto said Wong was invited to speak in several European countries including France, Italy and Germany. The court said Wong can give his talks through video recordings.

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