Hong Kong police laid siege to a university on Monday, firing rubber bullets and tear gas to pin back anti-government protesters armed with petrol bombs and other weapons and stop them from fleeing amid fears of a bloody crackdown.
Dozens, choking on the tear gas, tried to leave the Polytechnic University by breaking through police lines after a night of mayhem in the Chinese-ruled city in which roads were blocked, a bridge set on fire and a police officer was shot by a bow and arrow.
Some protesters were arrested, tackled to the ground, as others scrambled and tripped over barricades and fences as police pointed guns at them and threw punches.
“The police might not storm the campus but it seems like they are trying to catch people as they attempt to run,” Democratic lawmaker Hui Chi-fung told Reuters.
“It’s not optimistic now. They might all be arrested on campus. Lawmakers and school management are trying to liaise with the police but failed.” Police said officers had been deployed “on the periphery” of the campus for a week, appealing to “rioters” to leave.
“All our warnings were ignored,” they said in a statement. “Our message was loud and clear, the violence has escalated to rioting.”
They said “toxic and dangerous chemicals” had been stolen from the university laboratory.
“We must warn that the university campus has become a powder keg where danger is far beyond what we can estimate,” police said.
Police arrested 154 people aged between 13 and 54 over the weekend. Police said a car tried to hit an officer in the nearby Yau Ma Tei district on Sunday night, reversing and trying again. Police fired a shot and the driver fled.
Thirty-eight people were wounded overnight on Sunday, the Hospital Authority said. Reuters witnesses saw some protesters suffering from burns from chemicals in jets fired from police water cannons. The High Court ruled on Monday the ban was unconstitutional and police said they would suspend all such prosecutions. reuters