For months, demonstrators in the city have told one another to "be like water," but a recent siege contradicted that advice. What happened?
In a darkened classroom at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, a half-dozen people peeked through the blinds to watch the sight of true desperation: People dressed in black raced up a highway ramp in a frantic chase for freedom.
“Like ants,” remarked one young man who watched with me as we sat in the room. He asked that he be identified only by his last name, Tsang, for fear of arrest. Some others had escaped via ropes dropped from a highway overpass to motorcycles humming below; still more people tried to scramble through sewer pipes. But to run in the open, where most anyone, including photojournalists and police, could see you?
Then again, escape routes were few. For months, pro-democracy demonstrators have marched and rallied across this city to win greater freedoms and end police abuse. Now a few hundred people were hunkered on an urban university campus, armed with bricks and Molotov cocktails, isolated and encircled by police.