Fresh clashes broke out at the Chinese University of Hong Kong after nightfall on Tuesday as the school’s top management failed to broker a deal between protesters and police.

After a lull in the afternoon, police fired tear gas shortly before 7:30pm at the No. 2 Bridge – a bridge at the edge of the Sha Tin-based campus which overlooks the Tolo Highway and MTR tracks. Police took the bridge after accusing protesters of throwing objects to obstruct traffic below.

"November 12" CUHK Chinese University of Hong Kong protest fire
Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

In the ensuing clashes, CUHK Vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan and other senior executives were among those affected by tear gas.

The water cannon truck also made its first appearance at the CUHK campus, firing blue dye liquid at around 10pm.

Riot police earlier stormed the campus and arrested multiple people as protesters created barricades and threw objects as well as petrol bombs. Tuan arrived to negotiate with police representatives and, at around 5pm, the fighting was paused.

Tuan then told students that police were willing to retreat as long as the university arranged security guards and volunteers to help prevent any more cases of objects being thrown from a height.

rocky tuan cuhk chinese university november 12
Rocky Tuan negotiates with police at CUHK. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

However, students demanded the release of those arrested in the afternoon, and for police to leave campus premises altogether. Tuan replied that he would visit the arrested students at the police station.

Tuan also agreed to walk to the No. 2 Bridge to discuss the possibility of a full police withdrawal. As Tuan and his staff approached police lines, an officer told them to stop advancing forward.

“Don’t provoke the police. Don’t come over, because there are people following you and you can’t control them,” the officer said over a megaphone.

“The people who are following you have weapons. Vice-chancellor Tuan and university staff, please leave immediately, this is not a time for negotiation or dialogue.”

Police then fired tear gas and photographs showed Tuan being escorted away while pressing a mask to his face.

CUHK lecturer Leung Kai-chi said on Facebook that he was certain that nobody was throwing objects at the police when tear gas was fired. Protesters only threw Molotov cocktails in response to the tear gas, he said.

Multiple protesters were injured at the scene as police fired volleys of tear gas and other projectiles. Much of the area around the bridge was covered by white smoke, lowering visibility for journalists and others at the scene.

rocky tuan cuhk chinese university november 12
CUHK head Rocky Tuan being escorted away after tear gas was fired. Photo: Stand News.

Hiding behind makeshift barricades, protesters threw numerous Molotov cocktails and kept pushing forward despite a stream of tear gas. Those injured or felt unwell were quickly moved away by others through a path in the middle of the bridge.

Protesters retook the bridge at around 9:30pm but partly retreated before 10pm after news spread that the water cannon truck was on its way.

At 10:13pm, the government released a statement saying police had agreed with authorities at CUHK to retreat from the school in “pursuit of a peaceful solution to [defuse] the situation…”.

“In the meantime, the protestors in CUHK are reminded to refrain from throwing objects onto Tolo Highway and MTR track. Such acts seriously hamper the safety of [the] train system and threaten passengers’ safety,” it read.

cuhk chinese university november 12
Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Scholars’ Alliance for Academic Freedom condemned the police for using excessive force at tertiary institutions, saying that it was unlawful for officers to enter campus premises.

Chan King-ming, an associate professor at CUHK, said that students were not trying to harm the general public, and instead were just gathering inside the campus.

The unrest, which has now entered its sixth month, was sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill which would have enabled fugitive transfers to mainland China but has evolved into wider calls for democratic reform and accountability for the police handling of the crisis.

More to follow.

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