Hong Kong university siege: a visual guide

Lily Kuo, Michael Safi, Cath Levett, Paul Scruton and Simon Jeffery
Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

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.

Polytechnic University Campus
Anti-government protesters start a large fire in a staircase at the main entrance to Polytechnic University. Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images
Riot police detain protesters amid clouds of tear gas at Polytechnic University. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP

Police blockade

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.

Polytechnic University blockade

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.

A makeshift bamboo watch tower outside the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Photograph: Jérôme Favre/EPA
A protester prepares to fire a bow and arrow at Polytechic University on Sunday. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

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.

Hong Kong 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.

A barricade on bridge over the approach to the cross-harbour tunnel that was the scene of clashes between police and protesters. Photograph: Dale de la Rey/AFP via Getty Images

Further protests

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.

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”.