Protestors look out from behind a barricade as a fire burns near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: AP/Ng Han Guan
Protestors look out from behind a barricade as a fire burns near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: AP/Ng Han Guan

‘All hell breaks loose’ in Hong Kong

A heavily-fortified university campus in Hong Kong has been stormed by police with some declaring it a "war zone".

Police stormed the Hong Kong Polytechnic University before dawn on Monday where anti-government protesters had barricaded themselves behind sophisticated and elaborate walls.

They had been fighting back using catapults, petrol bombs and bows and arrows - one of which landed in the leg of a police officer.

The ABC's China correspondent, Bill Birtles, is in the thick of it and says "all hell is breaking loose".

 

 

Protesters try to shield themselves from tear gas in Hong Kong today. Picture: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images
Protesters try to shield themselves from tear gas in Hong Kong today. Picture: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

In a series of tweets from the ground, Birtles wrote that police had blocked all roads and exits around the university and arrested those who were trying to administer first aid.

"The saddest photo of the night," he wrote alongside a picture of volunteers with their wrists tied together behind their backs.

Early reports were that riot police had begun firing tear gas - and pictures back that up. But some reports suggest police have resorted to firing live rounds at protesters who have set fire to bridges leading to the campus.

The scenes today - loud explosions and walls of fire - could not be more different to the calm before the storm in footage of the fortified campus shared by local media earlier this week.

One video, from the South China Morning Post, shows what police would be confronted with if and when they decided to make their move. That move came in the early hours while many protesters slept.

 

 

Now it's a war zone. A huge blaze burned along much of a long footbridge that connects a train station to the campus over the approach to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, a major road under Hong Kong's harbour that has been blocked by the protesters for days.

The use of bows and arrows, along with gasoline bombs launched with catapults, threatened to escalate the violence in the more than five-month-long anti-government movement. Protesters are trying to keep the pressure on Hong Kong leaders who have rejected most of their demands.

The protests were sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland.

Activists saw it as an erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy under the "one country, two systems" formula implemented in 1997 when Britain returned the territory to China.

The bill has been withdrawn, but the protests have expanded into a wider resistance movement against what is perceived as the growing control of Hong Kong by Communist China, along with calls for full democracy for the territory.

Several hundred people formed a human chain on Sunday in central Hong Kong in a peaceful rally in support of the movement.

Azaze Chung, a university student, said the Government should respond to the protesters' demands, not just use force against them.

 

Protestors look out from behind a barricade as a fire burns near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: AP/Ng Han Guan
Protestors look out from behind a barricade as a fire burns near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: AP/Ng Han Guan

 

 

A protestor throws a molotov cocktail during a confrontation with police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: AP/Ng Han Guan
A protestor throws a molotov cocktail during a confrontation with police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: AP/Ng Han Guan

 

Police and protesters faced off all day outside the uni after a pitched battle the previous night in which the two sides exchanged tear gas and gasoline bombs that left fires blazing in the street.

A large group of people arrived in the morning to try to clean up the road but were warned away by protesters.

Riot police shot several volleys of tear gas at the protesters who sheltered behind a wall of umbrellas and threw gasoline bombs into nearby bushes and trees, setting them on fire.

The protesters held their ground for most of the day, as water cannon trucks drove over bricks and nails strewn by protesters to spray them at close range - some with water dyed blue to help police identify protesters afterwards.

Protesters began retreating into the university near sunset, fearing they would be trapped as police fired tear gas volleys and approached from other directions.

The protesters have barricaded the entrances to the campus and set up narrow access control points.

 

Police in riot gear fire tear gas during a confrontation with protestors at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: AP/Ng Han Guan
Police in riot gear fire tear gas during a confrontation with protestors at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Picture: AP/Ng Han Guan

 

They are the holdouts from larger groups that occupied several major campuses for much of last week.

Another group threw bricks in the street to block a main thoroughfare in the Mongkok district, as police fired tear gas to try to disperse them. The disruption to Nathan Road traffic may have been an attempt to distract police during the standoff at Polytechnic.

Opposition politicians criticised the Chinese military for joining a clean-up to remove debris from streets near Hong Kong Baptist University on Saturday. Dozens of Chinese troops, dressed in black shorts and olive drab T-shirts, ran out in loose formation and picked up paving stones, rocks and other obstacles that had cluttered the street The military is allowed to help maintain public order but only at the request of the Hong Kong Government. The Government said it had not requested the military's assistance, describing it as a voluntary community activity. The Education Bureau announced that classes from kindergarten to high school would be suspended again on Monday because of safety concerns. Classes have been cancelled since Thursday after the bureau came under criticism for not doing so earlier.

Associated Press video journalist Dake Kang contributed to this story.


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