Hong Kong police tightened their grip on the Polytechnic University after nightfall on Sunday, issuing a warning at midnight that live ammunition may be used against protesters.

Photo: Galileo Cheng.

Clashes continued to erupt around PolyU throughout Sunday, with most of the fighting concentrated at the bridges leading out of the Hung Hom campus, as well as the intersection outside the school’s main entrance.

At around 8:30pm, riot police tried to advance on protesters on the Cheong Wan Road bridge, aided by two armoured trucks.

Photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

They retreated after one of the truck’s exteriors was set alight with a barrage of Molotov cocktails.

Multiple explosions were seen at bridges, with some protesters claiming that they were defensive moves to block police. The fires were later extinguished by firefighters.

Photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

“The Police have repeatedly appealed to members of the public to leave immediately and to avoid travelling to the area. Officers will carry on with the dispersal operation and warn citizens not to enter or stay in the campus, or they will risk committing the offence of ‘Taking Part in a Riot,’” the force said in a statement.

Photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

At around midnight, police warned that live rounds may be used as “minimum necessary force,” because officers have been attacked with petrol bombs, arrows and vehicles.

An officer was hit with an arrow earlier in the day.

PolyU issued an emergency statement calling on students and staff to evacuate its campus. University management appealed to students to stop violence and exercise restraint, adding that the school’s facilities had been seriously damaged.

Photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

The call was echoed in a joint statement from the heads of five universities – The University of Hong Kong, the University of Science and Technology, Baptist University, Polytechnic University and City University. They urged calm on all sides, and asked students, alumni and other individuals to leave the scene immediately.

Photo: Galileo Cheng.

However, many protesters were instead urging the public to send reinforcements to PolyU.

Photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

A post on the popular forum LIHKG claimed that many of the frontline protesters were on campus, and they would be arrested en masse if police forced their way in.

On Sunday evening, protesters gathered in Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok, Jordan and elsewhere in Kowloon as part of a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign – a bid to draw police attention away from PolyU.

Photo: Galileo Cheng.

University encircled

At around 9:30pm, police announced that they would take further action against PolyU, and called on people on campus to “leave immediately via Block Y of Lee Shau Kee Building in Northern direction and listen to Police’s instructions.”

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University at Hung Hom on November 17. Photo: Studio Incendo.

However, local media reported that police arrested many of the people who were leaving via the Block Y bridge.

Photo: Galileo Cheng.

According to InMedia, police arrested a reporter from the online outlet the Barry Evening Post as he was trying to leave. Multiple student reporters were also arrested, including at least one from City University and Hang Seng University.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University at Hung Hom on November 17. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Police representatives told the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) that only reporters who can show press credentials will be allowed to leave. Otherwise, everyone leaving the university will be arrested on suspicion of taking part in a riot.

Multiple reporters said riot police searched their bags before they were allowed to leave PolyU.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University at Hung Hom on November 17. Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

As the night wore on, the former UK foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind urged leader Carrie Lam to exercise restraint: “Hong Kong’s Chief Executive has the responsibility to do everything possible to prevent a massacre. She must order the police to exercise restraint and not to use live ammunition or other forms of lethal force. A bloodbath on a Hong Kong campus would be devastating for Hong Kong as a whole. I also urge those students who have engaged in violence to stop. I condemn violence on all sides and I call on both sides to show restraint and pull back from the brink.”

Water cannon injures reporter

Earlier on Sunday, a reporter from Mad Dog Daily was hospitalised after being hit in the head by a blast from the police water cannon.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University at Hung Hom on November 17. Photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

The news outlet told Stand News that the photographer suffered serious injuries to his head and waist, and was receiving treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University at Hung Hom on November 17. File Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Mad Dog Daily editorial director William Luk said the reporter was found to have internal bleeding in his brain, which required an operation, according to Stand News.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University at Hung Hom on November 17. Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

The news outlet issued a statement condemning police for using force against frontline reporters, and said they reserved the right to take legal action against the government.

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Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.