Riot police stormed the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on Tuesday, firing tear gas and projectiles into the Sha Tin-based campus. Masked protesters wearing all-black had put up roadblocks and thrown bricks as well as petrol bombs.
At around 3pm, university staff tried to negotiate with officers stationed on a footbridge at the edge of the campus, who said that police were willing to move back slightly. However, riot police charged into the campus at 3:15pm, firing tear gas and other less-lethal projectiles.
The ensuing clashes were among the most relentless in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, as police could be heard firing their weapons continuously for around 15 minutes.
It came as multiple districts have been gripped by two days of unrest, initially as part of a citywide strike which called on students to boycott classes, business owners to close shops and employees to skip work.
The unrest – which has now entered its sixth month – was sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition agreement with mainland China but has evolved into wider calls for democratic reform and accountability for the police handling of the crisis.
Multiple arrests were made as students retreated deeper into CUHK’s campus. Footage shot by the Editorial Board of the City University Student Union showed riot police dragging a limp body of an arrested protester along the ground.
Clouds of white tear gas were spotted at the Sir Philip Haddon-Cave Sports Field as black-clad protesters fled. A vehicle and multiple barricades were also set on fire in a bid to delay the advancing police.
Multiple students and journalists were injured, with a South China Morning Post photojournalist being reportedly grazed in the head by a projectile.
CUHK released a statement in the afternoon announcing the cancellation of all classes on Wednesday for the third day in a row, citing the high risk posed by ongoing clashes on campus as well as the “severe damage” done to university facilities.
“The safety of our students and colleagues is always the University’s top priority,” it read. “The University urges all students and staff members to avoid danger and stay at safe locations. There is no need to travel to work unless safe to do so. All unit heads should exercise flexibility when handling the attendance or punctuality of individual staff members due to traffic problems.”
Speaking at a press conference, Senior Superintendent Kong Wing-cheung said that schools are not considered “private premises” under the Public Order Ordinance, as such officers can enter and make arrests without a warrant.
Kong also said that protesters had thrown over 30 petrol bombs at police in 20 minutes, prompting officers to respond using force.
Clashes at City University
Separately, some protesters blocked a section of Cornwall Street outside the City University’s dormitory on Tuesday morning. At around 7am, protesters threw objects at the police from a footbridge above, and police responded with tear gas.
At around 8am, Now TV footage appeared to show a riot police commander saying that a person’s head was visible, and said: “Hit the head!” Riot police fired a projectile at what appeared to be head level, but it hit an umbrella and fell to the ground.
At the University of Hong Kong (HKU), student protesters threw objects from a footbridge overlooking the HKU MTR station. And at around 4pm, a man was struck by an object thrown from above as he attempted to remove barricades on Pok Fu Lam Road.
Matthew Evans, Dean of Science and Professor of Ecology, appeared on the scene. He spoke to students and invited them back to the campus to engage in a dialogue, but the attempt failed.
“What is happening right now is not sustainable. What happens when the police come, there’s a fight, some people get hurt, some people get arrested, and then tomorrow it’s all over again. Maybe not here, somewhere else,” Evans said.
“I am worried about these guys. These are kids. They are my students, other people’s students, sons and daughters of families, they are kids,” he added.
Several universities suspended all classes since Monday due to the ongoing unrest.
More to follow.
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