Hundreds of Hong Kong protesters are trapped inside a university campus, surrounded by police and coming under teargas fire when they attempt to leave.
The area around Polytechnic University has been occupied by protesters since last week, and late on Sunday and early Monday it was the scene of some of the most intense clashes since the mass demonstrations began five months ago. People inside launched petrol bombs and shot arrows at police, who threatened to use live rounds.
Police have formed a tight perimeter around university and are not letting anyone in, including journalists. Protesters trying to escape have been teargassed and arrested, and some have retreated back inside. Police have declared the area in and around the campus a riot, meaning participants could face a 10-year prison term.
Hong Kong authorities have said the Red Cross is inside the campus and that anyone requiring hospitalisation will be permitted to leave.
How the occupations began
Protesters had until the last two weeks avoided university campuses, which are traditionally sites of political activism and regarded by many students as their home turf. The occupations were a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid nature.
The immediate trigger for the battle to shift to campuses appears to have been the death of a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student on 8 November. Since then, several campuses have been barricaded by students, some of whom are using footbridges or or near the campuses to block main roads.
The moves have turned campuses into fortresses. At Chinese University of Hong Kong last week, activists built watchtowers while campus sports centres were raided for bows and arrows.
The campus confrontations have been desperate: alongside bows and arrows, activists are using petrol bombs, bamboo poles and javelins. Observers have told the Guardian that the shift to the campuses represents a major escalation. Many of those occupying the campuses are current students or alumni. Until recently, riot police had refrained from entering universities.
At least three campuses are blockaded. Road closures have been a key tactic. Polytechnic University is close to a cross-harbour tunnel, a key artery for traffic in the city.
Protesters in other parts of the city have attempted to draw police away from the universities, giving those inside a chance to escape. In Tsim Sha Tsui, an area south of Polytechnic University, protesters have dug up bricks and scattered them along the approaches to the campus.
After riot police left, protesters are back on Chatham road pulling up bricks covering roads leading toward Polyu. pic.twitter.com/BlvKPwzHNn— Lily Kuo (@lilkuo) November 18, 2019
The parents of some of those trapped in the campus, including around 100 secondary school students, are sitting down in front of the police cordon blocking access to the campus holding signs that read “Save our kids”.