Hong Kong clashes rage on university campus and business district

Hong Kong clashes rage on university campus and business district

Hong Kong protests Nov 12
A protester's backpack is seen on fire during clashes with police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), in Hong Kong on Nov 12, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip FONG)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong protesters fought intense battles with riot police on a university campus and paralysed the city's business district on Tuesday (Nov 12), extending one of the most violent stretches of unrest seen in more than five months of political chaos.

The confrontations followed a particularly brutal day on Monday, when police shot a protester and a man was set on fire, prompting calls from western powers for compromise but further fury in China against any challenge to its rule.

The city's universities emerged as a new battleground throughout Tuesday with sustained clashes at major campuses for the first time as police fired tear gas and protesters threw petrol bombs and bricks at police.

The epicentre was the Chinese University of Hong Kong in New Territories where the usually placid hillside grounds were turned into a battlefield for hours.

Police fired repeated volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of protesters who responded with bricks and petrol bombs.

Protesters responded with bricks and petrol bombs, while a vehicle used in a barricade was set alight.

The clashes raged well into the night, despite faculty and staff trying to mediate, with flames lighting up the night sky and dense clouds of acrid smoke.

Police eventually used a water cannon truck and then began a retreat - although sporadic tear gas fire continued - and as midnight approached the campus remained in the hands of protesters behind their makeshift shield walls.

WHEN PETROL RUNS OUT, I'LL USE MY HANDS

A 19-year-old volunteer medic, who gave his first name Marco, said he had lost count of how many students he treated who had been struck by rubber bullets.

"Most of the cases I received from the frontline had been shot above their chest," he told AFP.

As the chaotic scenes were broadcast live, protesters took over roads in dozens of neighbourhoods in a bid to keep the police stretched while volunteers flocked to the university to bring supplies.

READ: Protesters tried to steal officer's gun: Hong Kong police on latest shooting

Protesters gather during clashes with police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Protesters gather during clashes with police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), in Hong Kong on Nov 12, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Dale De La Rey)
Hong Kong night protests Nov 12 (3)
A man reacts as he tries to extinguish a burning Christmas tree at Festival Walk mall in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, China Nov 12, 2019.  (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

Jim Poon, a first year student, said he raced back on a moped to join the protests.

"It feels like being humiliated right to our face so I wanted to come back and help," he told AFP. "When the petrol runs out, I will use my hands."

READ: Hong Kong protesters, students continue to clash with police as night falls

In photos: Hong Kong university campuses burn as student protesters battle police

Protesters and journalists react after police fired tear gas at CUHK
Protesters and journalists react after police fired tear gas at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Nov 12, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Dale dela Rey)
A student prepares to hurl a Molotov cocktail toward police
A student prepares to hurl a Molotov cocktail toward police during clashes at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, Nov 12, 2019. (Photo: AP/Kin Cheung)

CHANGE OF TACTICS

After months of largely confining their most disruptive protests to the weekends, online groups used by protesters have been pushing new tactics targeting the working week.

For the last two days flashmob protesters have blocked roads during the morning rush hour, thrown objects onto rail tracks and held up subway trains, sparking transport chaos throughout the city.

READ: China says ‘firmly supports’ Hong Kong police after US criticises shooting of protester

In Central, a district that is home to many blue-chip international firms and luxury shops, thousands of office workers occupied roads for hours on Tuesday chanting: "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong!"

Hundreds of hardcore protesters threw bricks and other objects before retreating when riot police fired tear gas in the shadows of high-end stores.

The scenes were a vivid illustration of how ordinary people are continuing to back the pro-democracy movement - even as the radicals adopt more violent tactics.

A couple rejoice after policemen retreat from Central in Hong Kong
A couple rejoice after policemen retreat from Central in Hong Kong, Nov. 12, 2019. (Photo: AP/Ng Han Guan)
A woman offers prayer as policemen clear a road in Central in Hong Kong
A woman offers prayer as policemen clear a road in Central in Hong Kong, Nov. 12, 2019. (Photo: AP/Ng Han Guan)

Authorities have offered repeated condemnation but been unable or unwilling to find a solution to the crisis.

"Hong Kong's rule of law has been pushed to the brink of total collapse," police spokesman Kong Wing-cheung told a press conference on Tuesday as he defended the force against seething public anger.

READ: Hong Kong cop suspended after driving motorbike into group of protesters

CHINA TIGHTENING CONTROL

China has ruled Hong Kong under a "one country, two systems" framework, which allows the city greater freedoms than on the mainland, since its handover from the British in 1997.

The protest movement has been fuelled by Beijing's tightening control over Hong Kong.

Protesters are demanding a right to freely elect their leaders, as well as an independent inquiry into what they see as police brutality.

But China has steadfastly refused to give any concessions to the protesters, and instead warned of even tougher security measures.

Chinese state media on Tuesday again raised the spectre of the People's Liberation Army being deployed to end the crisis.

The warnings were in response to Monday's violence, in which a man was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze by a masked assailant following an argument with pro-democracy protesters.

"This kind of hair-raising behaviour has caused terror and anxiety among the broader Hong Kong public," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing.

Britain and the United States called on Beijing and Hong Kong to seek a political solution for protesters and condemned the escalating violence on both sides.

European Union spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic on Tuesday said "it is crucial that all sides exercise restraint."

The far-reaching impact of the situation on lives and livelihoods in the territory makes a credible and swift solution to the unrest imperative," she said, while also calling for a "comprehensive inquiry into the violence, use of force and the root causes of the protests."

READ: Hong Kong police also fired tear gas at a university campus

READ: Timeline: Fresh violence erupts in Hong Kong on Tuesday

Hong Kong night protests Nov 12 (7)
A barricade burns during clashes between protesters and police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in Hong Kong. (Photo: AFP/DALE DE LA REY)
A policeman asks a journalist to leave Causeway Bay
A policeman asks a journalist to leave Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, Nov 12, 2019. (Photo: AP/Vincent Yu)

Those statements came after a police officer on Monday shot a 21-year-old protester, with that incident broadcast live on Facebook by a bystander.

Both the man set alight and the shot protester remained in critical condition on Tuesday, hospital authorities said.

Tensions had initially spiked following the death last week of a young man who fell from a multi-storey car park during clashes with police.

He was the first student to die in the five months of protests, and protests over the weekend then escalated at the start of the working week.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: Reuters/AFP/nh/de

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