Hong Kong: Police to guard polling stations

Hong Kong: Police will be out in force at polling stations in Hong Kong this weekend as keenly contested local elections take place amid ongoing anti-government protests.

Hong Kong's new police commissioner, Tang Ping-keung, told reporters Friday that officers would deal with any outbreak of violence immediately without hesitation.

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Six masked protesters surrendered before dawn, bringing to about 30 the number that have come out in the past day from a university campus surrounded by police.

The group emerged from a campus entrance and held hands as they walked toward a checkpoint around 3 a.m. Five wore the black clothing favored by the movement and the other was in a blue checked shirt.

Most of the protesters who took over Hong Kong Polytechnic University last week have left, but an unknown number have remained inside for days, hoping somehow to avoid arrest.

Tang Chun-Keung, head of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, said the holdouts include minors, numbering less than 10, and they are emotionally unstable. Tang entered the campus Friday with some others but failed to find them.

"We have lawyers and social workers ready to provide assistance and we hope to persuade them to leave the campus. We are worried our work is getting more and more difficult because students are refusing to meet us," he told reporters.

Police chief Tang reiterated that those under 18 can leave, although they may face charges later, and pledged impartial treatment for all adults facing arrest.

"The condition is deteriorating and dangerous, there are many explosives and petrol bombs inside... we hope to end the matter peacefully," he said, adding police didn't set any deadline to end the siege.

The anti-government protesters battled with police and blocked the nearby approach to a major road tunnel, which remains closed. It was the latest bout in more than five months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. Protesters are demanding fully democratic elections and an investigation into alleged police brutality in suppressing the demonstrations.

Anti-government rallies were held in at least two places Thursday night and again at two shopping districts at lunchtime Friday. Riot police broke up minor scuffles between protesters and pro-Beijing supporters at a bridge downtown Friday, but there were no major clashes ahead of Sunday's district council elections.

Protesters fear that the elections may be canceled because of the unrest. City leaders have said they want to go ahead with the vote but warned violence could make it impossible to hold a fair and safe election.

Asked if the police presence would make voters feel uncomfortable, Commissioner Tang said it will make citizens "feel safe to go out and vote." The election is seen as a bellwether for public support for the protests.

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