This story has been updated.
One of Hong Kong’s foremost universities turned into a site of fiery pitched battles as police stormed onto campus, firing tear gas and rubber bullets as protesters responded with bricks and Molotov cocktails today (Nov. 12) for the second consecutive day.
Across campus, roads were littered with bricks and other debris, and school chairs, bins, and fences were piled up to form makeshift barricades. Protesters also reportedly broke into a sports equipment shed, taking bows, arrows, and javelins to the front line.
Continuing on from the hours-long siege yesterday (Nov. 11), when police fired tear gas at the school and made arrests on campus, protesters took their positions again this morning as they faced off with police stationed on a bridge just outside the school grounds. Shortly after 3pm local time, riot police charged onto the hilly tree-lined campus, deploying round after round of tear gas continuously for at least a quarter of an hour.
Just after sunset, police finally appeared to retreat as university vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan addressed a crowd after speaking with students and police separately. But tear gas was again fired soon after, breaking the momentary cease fire. Another attempt by pro-vice-chancellor Dennis Ng to broker a deal, with the school official speaking on the phone to the police commander as a student relayed the message in real time over a microphone to the crowd, similarly faltered. Clashes stretched late into the night, as students and police battled it out on a bridge that connects to campus from across a highway.
As the fighting continued to rage, turning much of the campus into something akin to a war zone, the university gym was turned into a makeshift medical tent for injured students. The main sports ground, which was earlier pelted with tear gas canisters earlier in the afternoon, was turned into a temporary rest and supplies station. Smaller-scale protests also broke out across the city at night, as protesters attempted to divert police manpower from the university. At least one police van was set ablaze, and storefronts and shopping malls were vandalized.
A 2012 graduate who wished to remain anonymous returned to their alma mater in the evening and stayed overnight, setting up a makeshift projector screen to display a live-stream of the campus battleground. “For me it’s like the world crumbling down when I saw the video of my campus turned into war zone,” they said. “I will defend the university to my death and I’m glad I came back.”
It was the second day of city-wide protests, continuing from yesterday’s general strike as part of efforts to mark the death of 22-year-old Chow Tze-Lok, who died from injuries from an apparent fall from a floor of a parking garage close to a police dispersal operation nearby.
Yesterday’s protests turned chaotic early on, as a police officer shot a protester at close range with a live-round during morning rush-hour. In the afternoon, a man who got into a dispute with protesters was set alight, resulting in severe burns to almost a third of his body. The day also marked the first time police had deployed tear gas on the city’s higher-education institutions, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Polytechnic University.
Standoffs between protesters and police also took place today at City University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong. Classes have been suspended at multiple universities for multiple days.
Meanwhile, protesters including office workers in the Central business district have also staged two consecutive days of lunchtime protests, facing off against riot police while in suits and dresses.
At a news conference this afternoon, a police spokesman said that under the colonial-era Public Order Ordinance, school campuses do not count as private premises and as such police do not need a warrant to need a warrant to enter the premises. A group of Hong Kong academics pushed back, criticizing the police for using excessive force at university campuses where students live and are allowed to gather.