Scores of masked protesters wielding makeshift weapons and armor have barricaded themselves inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong after violent clashes with riot police overnight.
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The mostly-young protesters were clad in all black, wearing helmets, gas masks and padded vests. They have amassed a stockpile of gasoline bombs along with various rudimentary weapons, including bows and arrows, homemade slingshots and gasoline-dipped javelins. Some were even seen carrying riot shields, appearing ready for battle.
Rather than fleeing from riot police, who fire tear gas and rubber bullets, many protesters are now staying and fighting back — a noted escalation in tactics in the five-moth-long anti-government demonstrations that have gripped Hong Kong. Protesters ignited barricades at both the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University during their confrontations with authorities. Some were seen launching flaming arrows toward police.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong and several other colleges in the city have cancelled classes for the rest of the academic semester as the protesters, who are thought to be high school and college students, have turned the campuses into battlefields. Primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong have also suspended classes for Thursday.
Public transportation was disrupted across Hong Kong on Wednesday morning as protesters blocked streets, prevented train doors from closing and vandalized railway cars. Police have helped dozens of university students from mainland China evacuate Hong Kong.
The demonstrations began in early June when hundreds of thousands of mostly-young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, to be sent to mainland China for trial. Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has since withdrawn the bill, but widespread unrest has continued as demonstrators broaden their demands to include a call for direct elections for the city’s leaders, amnesty for protesters and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
There have been lulls in the violence and intensity of the protest movement over the months. But the death of a university student from a fall last week has reignited rage. The protesters blame police for the student’s injury because he fell off a parking garage in the vicinity of a police clearance operation.