Hong Kong: Pro-democracy demonstrators holed up in a Hong Kong university campus set the main entrance ablaze after police warned that they may use live rounds, deepening fears over how nearly six months of unrest will end.
Yesterday’s violence extended a dangerous new phase of the crisis, which in the past week saw schools shut down, roads barricaded and Chinese soldiers briefly leave their local barracks to clean up streets.China has refused to budge on any of the protesters’ key demands, which include free elections for the city of 7.5 million people and an end to the perceived erosion of liberties under China’s tightening grip.
Yesterday, blasts were heard at dawn before a wall of fire lit up an entrance to Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), as what looked to be a police attempt to enter the campus was repelled by protesters.Police said they had fired three live rounds at a protest site near the university, but no one appeared to have been hit.
At the besieged campus, protesters hunkered down under umbrellas from police water cannons and hurled Molotov cocktails at an armoured vehicle, leaving it ablaze.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene – rioting is punishable by up to 10 years in jail – and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers, ” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we will have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”Fear gripped protesters inside the campus – whose occupation is a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid nature.One 19-year-old, who gave her name as “K”, said there was desperation among the 200 demonstrators she estimated remained.
“Some people were crying, some were furious, some agonising as they felt hopeless – we have no way out of the campus, ” she said. ” — AFP