Hong Kong’s University Students Dig in for Battles With Police
HONG KONG — Protesters armed with firebombs and bows and arrows on Thursday reinforced the fortifications they had built on Hong Kong university campuses in anticipation of clashes with the police, as the city’s morning commute was snarled for a fourth straight weekday.
At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the site of battle scenes earlier in the week that evoked citadels under siege, young protesters built brick walls outside the campus’s entrances. On the fringes of other school campuses, students built elaborate roadblocks that some in the movement call “Stonehenges.”
The protests started in June over an extradition bill that has since been withdrawn, and have morphed into broader demands for democracy and police accountability. In recent days, the locus of tension between protesters and the police has moved from the streets to university campuses that were once sanctuaries for students at the core of the movement.
Here’s the latest on the Hong Kong protests.
Fears of a police crackdown on campuses.
The police kicked off the workday on Thursday by spraying tear gas at an entrance of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Around the same time, the university sent an email to the staff urging them to leave the campus “in view of the escalating danger and a high risk of bodily injury.”
Tensions were also running high at other universities. At least three — PolyU, Chinese University and Hong Kong Baptist University — have already canceled on-campus lectures for the remainder of the fall semester.
At C.U.H.K., protesters were seen building brick walls around the campus entrances. “All day all night,” read a slogan someone spray-painted on one of the walls, “We are gonna fight.”
The night before, they practiced shooting firebombs out of a giant slingshot made from bamboo, elastic bands and a construction helmet, video footage captured by a student journalist showed.
The police said on Wednesday that they believed C.U.H.K. was being used as a “factory” to manufacture gasoline bombs, bows and arrows, and other rudimentary weapons for use against officers.
Across town at the University of Hong Kong, protesters were using bricks and bamboo poles to erect elaborate roadblocks.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday night, the university’s president urged members of the campus not to “create any situation which will lead to police entering the campus to search, to investigate or to make arrests.”
“I urge you NOT to resort to violence as it will not solve any problems,” wrote the president, Xiang Zhang.
Office workers take to the streets, again.
Thousands of masked people, many on their lunch breaks from day jobs in office towers, flooded Hong Kong’s Central business district midday on Thursday, the fourth consecutive day of such protests.
The office workers, wearing high heels and tucked-in dress shirts, were expressing solidarity with the front-line activists who have been disrupting mass transit and clashing with the police all week. (Some of those hard-core activists also set a man on fire during an argument on Monday, leaving him in critical condition.)
The workers who took to the streets chanted “Hong Kong people, take revenge” — a slogan that became popular after the recent death of a student who fell from a parking garage amid demonstrations. Others formed a human chain to help funnel supplies to black-clad activists who were blocking roads with traffic cones and overturned dumpsters.
In what has become a familiar pattern, riot police officers swooped in after 2 p.m., clearing roadblocks and scattering most of the demonstrators.
But further east on Hong Kong Island, other demonstrators were marching toward Sai Wan Ho, a neighborhood where a policeman on Monday shot a young demonstrator at point-blank range on a street corner, further enraging the protest movement.
Transit disruptions across town.
Most of the unrest roiling Hong Kong since June has occurred at night, on weekends or public holidays. The disruptions this week, by contrast, have forced commuters to choose whether to venture outside during the weekday and risk being caught up in clashes and tear gas.
On Thursday morning, there were delays or closures on seven of Hong Kong’s 11 subway lines, although the scale of the disruptions appeared to be smaller than on other days this week.
A section of Tolo Highway, a major thruway in northern Hong Kong that runs past of the Chinese University campus, was blocked by debris that protesters had thrown down from a bridge.
Protesters blocked a key tunnel linking Hong Kong Island with the Kowloon Peninsula with makeshift barricades, a day after throwing gasoline bombs at some of its toll plazas.
The city’s Education Bureau has canceled all classes — kindergarten through secondary school — from Thursday through the weekend.
A week of chaos and violence.
Protesters have been rallying for months over a range of demands, but they are particularly angry over the shooting Monday of the young man in Sai Wan Ho. He was in serious condition as of Wednesday.
Before the shooting, tensions had been building over the death last week of Chow Tsz-lok, the protester who fell from the parking garage. The circumstances leading to his death remain unclear, but many in the protest movement now see him as a martyr.
On Tuesday, the Chinese central government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong condemned the flare-up of violence, warning in a statement that months of protests had pushed the city into an “extremely dangerous place.”
The Hong Kong police said on Wednesday that some police officers from the city’s marine unit had been deployed to help evacuate mainland Chinese students who attend C.U.H.K.
China’s Communist Youth League, the youth division of the ruling Communist Party, has offered mainland students fleeing Hong Kong seven days of free accommodation.
The injury toll mounts.
The Hospital Authority said that 64 people received medical treatment related to clashes across Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Some were gravely injured, although it was unclear how many of the injuries were specifically linked to violence by protesters or the police.
A man working for Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department was believed to have been hit on the head on Wednesday by “hard objects hurled by masked rioters,” the government said in a statement hours later.
The police said in a separate statement on Thursday that the man, 70, appeared to have been attacked with a brick, and that he was in critical condition.
Keith Bradsher, Ezra Cheung, Tiffany May, Elaine Yu and Edward Wong contributed reporting.
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