MORE than 20 protesters inside a Hong Kong university campus have surrendered to police, as the city’s largest pro-Beijing political party urged voters to “kick out the black force” in upcoming elections seen as a key gauge of public support for anti-government demonstrations.

At least 22 people left Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which has been ringed by riot police for days, as the campus siege edged closer to an end. Ten protesters walked out together on Thursday and were escorted to a police post outside the campus, while three were carried out on stretchers and four were taken in wheelchairs.

Five other students, believed to be minors, came out with their parents and were allowed to leave after police took their details. It is unclear how many protesters were left behind. They are the remnants of a much larger group.

MEANWHILE, Pope Francis called for migrants to be welcomed and for women and children to be protected from exploitation, abuse and enslavement as he began a

busy two days of activities in Thailand.

Francis pleaded for action against one of the region’s greatest scourges, human trafficking to fuel the forced labour and sex trade industries, as he began a weeklong visit to Asia.

He praised the Thai government’s efforts to fight human trafficking in a speech delivered at host Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s Government House offices. But he appealed for greater international commitment to protect women and children who face violence.

ELSEWHERE, Sri Lanka’s newly elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has sworn in his brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister. It marks a victorious return to power of the siblings credited with a military victory over Tamil rebels – but also implicated in human rights violations.

Ranil Wickremesinghe stepped down as prime minister earlier yesterday to clear the way for the president to form his government.

He said in a statement that he was quitting despite having a parliamentary majority, respecting the mandate Gotabaya Rajapaksa received in last Saturday’s presidential election.

FINALLY, Spanish humanitarian aid ship Open Arms has rescued 73 migrants from a boat off Libya’s coast.

It said the rescued migrants include four women, 24 unaccompanied minors and two children aged three and four.

Open Arms said the migrants showed signs of gunshot wounds, traumatic shock and serious hypothermia.

It came after another humanitarian ship, Ocean Viking, said on Wednesday that it had rescued 30 people from a boat in distress off the Libyan coast.