HONG KONG: Hundreds of defiant protesters holed up in a Hong Kong university campus set the main entrance ablaze on Monday (Nov 18) to prevent surrounding police moving in.
The violence extended a dangerous new phase of the nearly six-month crisis as Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University (PolyU) became the latest scene of dramatic clashes.
Several loud blasts were heard around dawn on Monday before a wall of fire lit up an entrance to the university, AFP reporters said, as what appeared to be a police attempt to enter the campus was repelled by protesters determined to hold their ground.
Police said they had fired three live rounds in the early hours of Monday at a protest site near the university but that no one appeared to have been hit.
The protesters' occupation of the university campus is a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
Some said they were afraid but were determined to stay.
"I feel scared. There's no way out. All I can do is fight to the end," one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building said.
Owen Li, a PolyU council member and student, said panic had taken hold of the few hundred protesters believed to be holed up in the campus. He called on "all of society to come out and help us".
"The protesters have been reacting to the police," said Joris, 23, a civil engineer who like others did not give his full name. "We haven't fought back as much as we could. I would be prepared for jail. We are fighting for Hong Kong."
AFP reporters said protesters who tried to leave were met with tear gas and forced back into the campus.
Protesters' messages circulating on Telegram called for reinforcements to fill the streets of Kowloon.
"We must rescue our brothers and sisters inside PolyU, they are waiting for us to save them," one message read.
Throughout Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the campus, firing rocks using a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers - several carrying sports bows - patrolling the site.
The protesters at PolyU had blocked one of Hong Kong's major highways, the Cross Harbour Tunnel linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula for much of the past week, with authorities desperate to restore the link yet encountering tenacious resistance from the trapped activists.
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