Both the government and the protesters are refusing to back down after over five months of unrest — and there is no immediate end in sight.
Showing his dissatisfaction with the situation, Chinese President Xi Jinping made rare public comments on the demonstrations last Thursday, days after reiterating his support for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
He said that “radical” protesters had trampled the city’s rule of law and that “stopping the violence and restoring order” was Hong Kong’s most “urgent task.”
It came just hours before a 70-year-old man, who was struck by a brick during clashes between protesters and their opponents, died of his injuries. Police blamed protesters for throwing the item which killed him.
There is regular speculation that the Chinese government might send in the People’s Liberation Army to restore order in the city but so far that appears to not be an option for Beijing.
Over the weekend the specter of military intervention was once again raised after soldiers from the PLA barracyU were seen helping local residents clean up surrounding streets.
The presence of the troops on the streets despite being en unarmed and wearing workout gear — unnerved many Hong Kong residents and pro-democracy legislators, even as it was cheered by pro-Beijing newspapers and on Chinese social media.
Analysts agree that a military intervention could severely damage Hong Kong’s economy and might spark an exodus from the city. Police have repeatedly denied any need for assistance from the PLA, and have not yet had to use live rounds as a routine matter.
Cat-and-mouse clashes are continuing in Kowloon, with sporadic rounds of tear gas and protesters running back and forth.
Gascoigne Road, which lies a few hundred meters (up to a thousand feet) from the Polytechnic University, has been the focus of today’s clashes. Protesters there are determined to distract the police and aid the escape of students still inside PolyU.
“Inside are several hundred students — and they are only students. Some are in the hall hiding but police have surrounded the campus. They cannot leave,” said one kindergarten teacher helping protesters on the street.
“We cannot trust the police anymore. They say they won’t arrest students outside the campus but they did and always use tear gas,” she added.
Earlier this afternoon, protesters trying to flee the university were beaten and arrested by police, who had previously asked them to leave “in an orderly manner.”
The teacher told CNN she would be fired if her employer knew she was out there with the protesters — but like the protesters, she is frustrated that the government hasn’t taken action after almost six months of unrest.
It remains unclear precisely how many students and protesters are still barricaded inside Polytechnic University, with estimates from those on campus ranging from between 100 to 1,000.
A source inside the maze-like university grounds told CNN that most of the remaining protesters are now spread out in small groups, making it difficult to gage exact numbers.
Throughout the day, groups of protesters have attempted to leave the campus, only to be met with tear gas, water cannons and projectiles from waiting police.
Democratic Party Legislative Councillor Ted Hui, who is also inside the university, told CNN there could be up to 1,000 people trapped on campus, many of whom are young students.
“No one wants to see people get hurt, no Hong Konger would want that,” said Hui.
As the standoff continues between the remaining protesters and police at Polytechnic University, demonstrators are still working to distract authorities in nearby districts.
Long human chains have formed down Gascoigne Road in Yau Ma Tei, north of the university, and protesters are passing umbrellas, cardboard, bamboo poles, bricks and other materials to front line protesters who are confronting police near the flyover.
Police keep responding with tear gas that disperses them but the protesters come back. Shouts ring out for certain supplies which are hurried to the front.
Confrontations between police and protesters have been raging for most of Monday across Kowloon, ever since pro-demonstrator groups called for assistance in distracting authorities early in the day.
The subway stations for Tsim Sha Tsui and Yau Ma Tei have closed, the subway operator just announced.
Both districts are in Kowloon, where police have been clashing with protesters all day, with heavy tear gas fired and petrol bombs thrown.
The announcement said the closures were due to “damage to station facilities.”
“For safety reasons, other stations may close at anytime without prior notice,” it said.
Parts of the West Rail Line and East Rail Line are also suspended, with trains skipping over the stops where the unrest is concentrated.
It’s not just the subway disrupted — roads near the Polytechnic University have also been closed off, and the crucial cross-harbor tunnel is also shut.
During the 24-hour siege of Polytechnic University, protesters have used a range of potentially lethal weaponry to hold off riot police.
The demonstrators have set up production lines of petrol bombs filled with a napalm-like substance, which they’ve then throw at police lines or at barricades to set them on fire.
Dramatic images from Sunday night showed enormous blazes started from huge numbers of petrol bombs being thrown at once.
Protesters also used a variety of bows and arrows, which were being fired from the balconies of Polytechnic University. One struck a police officer in the leg on Sunday, leading to his hospitalization.
Most dramatically, there have been makeshift catapults built out of bamboo and elastic, which protesters have used to slingshot objects at police lines.
At the fortified campus, CNN saw how protesters would first use bricks in the catapults to test their range, then switching to petrol bombs when they were hitting their targets.
Spotters on the roof also provided information to held the crews on the ground.
Last week’s violent confrontations between police and protesters were met with condemnation from the international community.
US Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee tweeted Sunday night that the actions of police officers at the Polytechnic University were “disturbing.”
“The Chinese and Hong Kong government need to deescalate. We’ve had enough bloodshed,” she wrote.
Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Jim Risch of Idaho, and Rick Scott of Florida have also expressed concern online about the violence and criticism toward the city government.
It’s not just American politicians — Sen. Penny Wong of South Australia also posted about the protests on Friday, urging the city authorities to “engage in a genuine dialogue with the public that addresses widespread concerns, including police conduct, and builds trust between all parties.”
Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok, who was among those who filed a legal case against the Hong Kong government’s mask ban which resulted in it being ruled unconstitutional today, said he felt vindicated by the decision.
“The judgment shows that the government clearly has overstepped the limit in its invocation of the emergency regulations ordinance to set up this anti-mask law, which is ruled to be unconstitutional and incompatible with the Basic Law,” Mok told CNN.
“Once again it demonstrates the excessive abuse of administrative power of the government, to have pushed an unconstitutional law, circumventing the normal legislative process, only to be ruled unconstitutional by the court.”
Mok added that the ruling “shows that the judiciary in Hong Kong is still independent and fair.”
“However, one must worry that Beijing may clamp down further on our courts as it would see the judgment as an example of ‘non-cooperation’ with the administration,” he said.
After months of it feeling like the Hong Kong protests were almost settling into if not a lull, then at least some kind of routine, the last week has been nothing but escalation.
Only a week ago, a Hong Kong university student was shot by a police officer; later in the same day a man was set on fire following a dispute with protesters. A 70-year-old man was struck on the head with a brick and later died. Protesters fortified multiple campuses and police launched intense clearance operations.
This week shows no signs of slowing down. Today has already seen dramatic clashes at Polytechnic University, where a siege of the campus is still ongoing and police are cracking down on all those who leave, even as protests spring up elsewhere across the city in an attempt to relieve the pressure.
Throughout clashes Sunday night into Monday morning, protesters used petrol bombs and flaming arrows, as police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
Both sides seem to be preparing for greater violence, with protesters making Molotov cocktails filled with a napalm-like substance and even apparently setting explosive booby traps on the PolyU campus. Meanwhile police have deployed snipers and officers could be seen patrolling with assault rifles after the force said it may use live rounds if the dispute continues.
It seems inevitable that images coming out of PolyU will further exacerbate anger and fuel more protests, even as the last major misstep by the government — a ban on the wearing of masks using a colonial era law — was ruled unconstitutional by a court this morning.
After almost six months of unrest, everything seems to be speeding up, and we may be on the verge of a turning point. The protests have not been bloodless, but those deaths which have occurred did so on the edges of the unrest — the last week seems to indicate that we may be getting towards the point where fatalities become routine.
Black-uniformed riot police have been seen in Jordan, where a clearance operation is ongoing, carrying what appear to be assault rifles.
The weapons, which did not have the usual orange markings that designate less-than-lethal rounds, appeared to be M4 carbines with .556 rounds. It was unclear whether the weapon was loaded with live ammunition, but police said in a statement last night that they were prepared to use live rounds if the disruption continued.
The Hong Kong Education Bureau just announced that classes for all schools will be cancelled again tomorrow due to the weeklong unrest.
A statement from the bureau said the decision was made because of “unstable factors” and transit disruptions.
The cancellations include all education levels. The bureau said most classes are expected to resume on Wednesday, while some schools for students with disabilities will remain closed until Sunday.
This is the fourth consecutive school day that classes have been cancelled — the bureau first closed all schools last Thursday after safety complaints from parents.
“The EDB (Education Bureau) reminded students again to stay at home and not to wander in the streets. They should stay away from danger and must not participate in unlawful activities,” the statement said.
About 20 minutes ago, police and protesters clashed outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, after protesters who had been barricaded inside attempted to leave.
Scenes from the ground show protesters with bloodied faces after the clashes. Some were tackled to the ground, and held down by numerous riot police officers.
The clash erupted suddenly, and was over just as quickly, in a matter of minutes. Earlier, the street had been full of police and protesters dressed in black, trying desperately to run away and tussling on the ground. Now, the area is empty, with some protesters having fled and many arrested.
The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) has accused police of trying to obstruct press coverage of the Polytechnic University siege.
In a strongly worded statement, the club said police had barred journalists from entering the fortified campus, and searched others or demanded they provide press identification.
“The FCC considers this a serious breach of press freedom and the right of the media under Hong Kong law to cover the protests free of intimidation or violence,” the statement said.
In one incident, the FCC alleged three student journalists who attempted to leave the Polytechnic University campus were told to stay where they were or risk being fired upon.
“We again call for an independent investigation into police violence against journalists and any interference with the media’s right under Hong Kong law to cover the unrest,” the statement said.
A source at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University has revealed how protesters barricaded inside the campus have made a napalm-like substance to attack police lines.
According to the source, the manufacturing of the substance was carried out in an organized manner, with some protesters focusing on mixing household substances, while others focused on mixing the napalm like substance with petrol in glass bottles.
Hundreds of glass bottles filled with the substance have been strategically positioned across campus, ready to be used should police finally enter inside, the source claimed.
On Sunday, protesters used slingshots to hurl the substance towards police lines. In one incident, an armored police vehicle caught fire when protesters launched a barrage of bottles filled with the substance towards advancing police lines, said the source.
The latest escalation in violence between protesters and police has pushed protesters to experiment with newer and more deadly makeshift weaponry, including bows and flaming arrows and catapults.
Do police want to clear the Polytechnic University campus, or do they want to make arrests? At the moment they seem to be trying to have it both ways — and are working against their own stated objectives.
While some protesters managed to flee the besieged campus this morning, many were sent rushing back inside after police fired a barrage of tear gas at them. They have been trapped there since.
Moments ago, more attempted to leave but were tackled to the ground and detained, often violently, live video footage showed from the scene.
While police have grounds to make arrests, the point of doing so at this stage seems unclear. They have said since this morning that they want to clear the campus and restore calm — allowing those protesters remaining inside to leave would do this.
By targeting anyone who steps outside they are only further prolonging the siege, and the images of violent arrests will be spreading like wildfire around Hong Kong, where multiple sympathy protests have already sprung up, further exacerbating tensions today.
The past six months have often been characterized by the police and government acting in ways that undermine their own goals, and today looks like it will be no different.
A bloody fight has broken out between protesters and riot police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where upwards of several hundred student protesters have been barricaded inside for days.
Live video streams from local media show a large group of black-clad protesters trying to run, before being pursued by riot police. The scene quickly descended into shocking violence, with protesters and police officers tussling on the road, tripping over bricks that had been pried loose.
Video showed officers throwing protesters with bloody faces to the ground and beating them with batons. The air is heavy with thick white tear gas.
There are fires on site as well, and a police water cannon vehicle heading toward the scene.
For hours, police have ordered protesters inside the university to leave. In a statement earlier this morning, police said they were using “the minimum force necessary.” They asked protesters to “drop their weapons” and leave “in an orderly manner,” warning them to “follow police instructions.”
Many protesters were reluctant to leave the university all day for fear of being arrested or beaten by the police. It’s not clear how many remain still inside the university, or how many have been injured in the stand-off that has now been going on for more than 24 hours.
Five people are in a serious condition after being injured in the past 36 hours, Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said Monday.
In total, 38 people have been admitted to hospital with injuries since Sunday morning, although it wasn’t clear how many were injured in the siege of Polytechnic University.
The Authority said that three men and two women were in a serious condition. The others were either stable or had been discharged.
There is no information at this stage how many of the injured are police and how many are protesters.
In a statement earlier in the day, the president of the Polytechnic University’s student union said a number of protesters on the campus were suffering from hyperthermia after being hit with the water cannon.
White collar protesters have hit the streets of Hong Kong’s Central district during their lunch break for the first time this week.
Central is home to many of Hong Kong’s blue-chip companies and highest-paid financial jobs. It also boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
The workers regularly came out last week to support the protesters in other parts of the city, chanting “Save our students” and “Five demands, not one less.”
The spontaneous demonstrations made headlines around the world, due to eye-catching visuals of people in business shoes and formal dresses helping set up barricades and shield each other from tear gas.
It also showed the depth of support for the Hong Kong protest movement despite the increasingly violent nature of the demonstrations.
Attempts by protesters to divert police resources from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus are underway across the city.
Demonstrators are vandalizing shops and causing disruptions in a number of districts surrounding the university.
In one incident at the corner of Jordan Road and Nathan Road, protesters fled after smashing up a Starbucks coffee shop, pursued by police who fired tear gas and sponge bullets.