CUHK Campus Under Siege as Chaos Overtakes Hong Kong Protests

[Update: November 13, 9:45 am PST: For up-to-the-minute updates on the situation at CUHK and elsewhere in Hong Kong, please check Hong Kong Free Press and this Twitter list compiled by freelance journalist Laurel Chor.]

Violent confrontations between police and protesters sharply escalated in Hong Kong this week, following the police shooting of an unarmed protester in the chest on Monday. Tuesday evening, chaos erupted at the campus of the City University of Hong Kong (CUHK) as police fired teargas on campus and protesters set barricades on fire and hurled molotov cocktails. In Central, the main business district, office workers took to the streets.

Mike Ives, Ezra Cheung and Katherine Li for The New York Times report on the scene around Hong Kong on Tuesday:

Protesters disrupted the morning commute and brought parts of the central business district to a standstill around lunchtime. At the gates of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday evening, they set a giant blaze and threw gasoline bombs at police lines under a barrage of tear gas canisters.

[…] Hundreds of protesters, including many office workers, stormed Hong Kong’s central business district at lunchtime. Some formed human chains to pass along bags of bricks that front line activists were using to block traffic.

Across the harbor, activists in the Mong Kok neighborhood placed barricades in front of buses and punctured their tires.

The city’s subway operator said on Tuesday morning that services were also delayed after gasoline bombs had been thrown onto the tracks of a major rail line that runs to the border of the Chinese mainland. [Source]

At the Wall Street Journal, Steven Russolillo, Joyu Wang and Rachel Yeo report on the violence at the CUHK campus:

Videos circulating on social media showed a scene that was reminiscent of a battlefield, with fires and thick clouds of smoke hovering above the campus. Reports suggested more than 60 people were injured at the university. Shortly after 10 p.m., police said in a statement that they would retreat from the scene.

The action showed neither side appears willing to back down. Protesters for the past few days have embraced causing citywide disruptions while Hong Kong Chief Executive has emphasized that increased violence won’t prompt the government to yield to protesters’ demands.

“Over the past two days, our society has been pushed to the brink of a total breakdown,” the Hong Kong police said at a news conference on Tuesday. They said they had arrested 287 people, ages 12 to 82, on Monday.

Earlier in the day, police also fired tear gas and nonlethal rounds at City University of Hong Kong, including near the student dormitories, after protesters built barricades in the area. Dozens of riot police were also at another college, the University of Hong Kong, where protesters threw bricks and chairs from a pedestrian bridge, causing traffic jams and hitting vehicles. [Source]


(See more live tweets from CUHK from New York Times reporter Paul Mozur.)

At The New York Times, Mike Ives, Elaine Yu and Edward Wong reported Monday on the shooting of the protester, which further escalated tensions and conflict between police and protesters.

The young man was shot as commuters, snarled by roadblocks set up by demonstrators, looked on in disbelief. One moment, he was standing on a corner staring into the end of the police officer’s handgun. The next, after several shots rang out, he lay crumpled on the ground in the middle of an eerily deserted intersection.

As blood pooled on the asphalt, a crowd of angry citizens surrounded riot police officers who had arrived as reinforcements. “Murderer!” some of them cried.

An officer doused the crowd with pepper spray.

Anger quickly unspooled across several districts in the city of more than seven million people, and the protests drew in both suit-clad office workers in the central business district and residents in working-class neighborhoods. [Source]

Later that day, a mainlander who confronted protesters was set ablaze and is currently in critical condition in a hospital. Bill Chappell reports for NPR:

Hours later, northeast of central Hong Kong, a man was set on fire on a footbridge in Ma On Shan. Video footage taken by a bystander shows a man in a green shirt arguing with what appear to be pro-Hong Kong demonstrators — an exchange that seems to be winding down when the man starts to walk away. More angry words are exchanged and the man walks back. Then a masked man in black splashes a liquid on the green-shirted man and uses a lighter to ignite it. The man erupts in flames and the crowd scatters.

The man, who was taken to the hospital, suffered “burns on 28 percent of his body, mainly on his chest and arms,” the South China Morning Post reports. [Source]

Tensions had already been high over the weekend following the death on Friday of a student protester, Chow Tsz-lok, after he fell from a garage structure. Austin Ramzy and Ezra Cheung reported on his death for the New York Times:

Chow Tsz-lok, who was a student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, sustained head and pelvis injuries when he fell one story early Monday morning. His death on Friday morning was confirmed by the city’s Hospital Authority.

[…] Mr. Chow, 22, could be the first death as a direct result of the confrontations between the police and protesters. But what exactly led to his fall is still unclear.

Some protesters have speculated that tear gas or an effort to flee police officers were factors. But security camera video released Wednesday by the building owner did not show police officers or significant amounts of tear gas in the parking garage before Mr. Chow fell.

Roger Tam, 21, a fourth-year H.K.U.S.T. science student, said he had been friends with Mr. Chow for the last three years, and they often spent time together playing video games like Grand Theft Auto. Mr. Chow played basketball and netball and was a “keen protester” who played close attention to the movement, Mr. Tam said. [Source]

In recent months, police violence has become the primary concern of protesters, following initial calls for the reversal of a now withdrawn extradition bill, which launched the movement in June. Multiple women have accused Hong Kong Police Force officers of sexual assault throughout the protest movement, including one woman who has reported being gang raped inside the Tsuen Wan Police Station in September. Other reports of excessive police force are abundant:

In response to the recent violence, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who continues to have Beijing’s backing, has heightened the rhetoric against the protesters, calling them “enemies of the people.”

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