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Hong Kong protests: Fires blaze at university campus

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Media captionProtesters around Hong Kong Polytechnic University have armed themselves with an array of weapons

Police have moved on hundreds of anti-government protesters occupying a university campus in Hong Kong after an hours-long standoff.

There are large fires at entrances to the Polytechnic University (PolyU), where protesters have been hurling petrol bombs and shooting arrows at police from behind barricades.

Officers earlier warned they could use live ammunition if protesters did not stop attacking them using such weapons. Months of anti-government protests have caused turmoil in the city.

The latest violence is however some of the worst the semi-autonomous Chinese territory has seen since the movement began. The police have become targets for radical demonstrators, who accuse them of excessive force.

Fresh clashes between protesters and the security forces erupted on Sunday, with tear gas and water cannon being met with petrol bombs, bricks and other improvised weapons. A police media liaison officer was wounded in the leg with an arrow.

Sporadic clashes continued into Monday morning, with police making a push to re-take the campus at about 05:30 local time (21:30 GMT).

Those occupying the university had been told to leave immediately on Sunday evening but hundreds remained inside early on Monday.

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AFP

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Those hit by blue liquid from the police water cannon receive medical help

“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” police spokesman Louis Lau said in a statement broadcast via Facebook late on Sunday.

“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”

Earlier police fired a live round in response to what they said was a car hurtling towards officers near the university.

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Reuters

Determined to fight to the end

By the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Polytechnic University, at 04:00 Hong Kong time

It’s only the most radical left now – or the bravest, depending on your point of view. About a hundred of them are hunkered down at a junction outside the main entrance. On the other side of the road: an armoured police vehicle, and a water cannon truck.

Every 10 minutes or so, these two sides play a game of cat and mouse. The police fire tear gas and the water cannon advances, squirting noxious blue liquid. The protesters, crouching behind umbrellas, respond with petrol bombs and rocks fired from improvised catapults. The police vehicles retreat. The net result is zero. It’s a stalemate. There are several hundred more protesters milling around the campus. Medics treat those who have been hit by tear gas or the blue liquid in the water cannon, which stings on contact with the skin. Others man barricades at the many entrances to this sprawling campus which is now completely surrounded. When the police announced a 22:00 deadline for the protesters to surrender or face the possibility of lethal force a significant number changed out of their black outfits, ditched their masks, and disappeared into the night. Some were arrested but others escaped.

Those who remain seem determined to fight to the end, no matter the risk. “If I die, remember me,” one young man said to me. “Do you believe that could happen?” I asked. He gave a nervous shrug.

The protests in Hong Kong, which began in June, were triggered by a now-withdrawn plan to allow extradition to mainland China but have since expanded into wider demands for greater democracy and for investigations into the actions of police.

The government recently confirmed the city had entered its first recession for a decade.

In recent days, Hong Kong’s university campuses have been the scenes of pitched battles between police and demonstrators.

Protests in Hong Kong

On Sunday, there were heavy clashes in several areas and a large blaze was set on a footbridge near the university. The blaze triggered a number of small explosions, witnesses said, and fire crews eventually moved in to douse the flames.

A police truck on a bridge above the Cross Harbour tunnel, which links Kowloon and Hong Kong island. was meanwhile set on fire and forced to retreat by large crowds of protesters hiding behind umbrellas and hurling petrol bombs.

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Getty Images

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Protesters have been holding a bridge above the Cross Harbour tunnel

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Reuters

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A footbridge near the university was set alight

In a statement the university urged those occupying the campus to leave.

“Universities are venues for advancing knowledge and nurturing talents. Universities are not battlegrounds for political disputes and should not be drawn into violent confrontations,” it read.

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AFP

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Protesters armed with bows and arrows have been seen on the PolyU campus

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AFP

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The officer was struck in the leg close to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University

On Saturday, in a move that sparked controversy, Chinese soldiers in shorts and T-shirts took to the streets to help clean up debris and remove barricades. It was the first time since the protests erupted that Chinese soldiers, who very rarely leave their barracks in Hong Kong, had taken to the streets.

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Media captionChinese soldiers, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, help clean up Hong Kong’s streets

Why are there protests?

Hong Kong – a British colony until 1997 – is part of China under a model known as “one country, two systems”.

Under this model, Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy and people have freedoms unseen in mainland China.

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Media captionHow Hong Kong got trapped in a cycle of violence

The protests started in June after the government planned to pass a bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

Many feared this bill would undermine the city’s freedoms and judicial independence.

The bill was eventually withdrawn but the protests continued, having evolved into a broader revolt against the police, and the way Hong Kong is administered by Beijing.





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