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All schools closed, students from China flee HK campuses

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Students from China flee universities as protesters fight pitched battles with police

HONG KONG: All schools and universities in Hong Kong will be closed today due to transportation and safety reasons, the Hong Kong Education Bureau said yesterday.

Closure or not, after the violence at universities yesterday, students from China have begun fleeing campuses over security fears, police and university officials said yesterday.

The most intense clashes on Tuesday occurred at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), where pitched battles were fought with police firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets and protesters throwing petrol bombs and bricks, paralysing the campus and the area around it.

A group of Chinese students at CUHK attempted to leave the campus yesterday morning had to be shuttled away by a police boat because they were unable to leave via obstructed roads.

"The police decided to deploy a police launch to assist the group of students to go to a safe location," the force said.

Images on local outlet Stand News showed dozens of people - some carrying luggage - standing next to a vessel with police markings, purportedly fleeing the campus.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, meanwhile, arranged a special bus service to ferry students from its campus to a station that offers services to China.

"While we are not aware of any imminent threat to campus safety, we understand some staff and students have the desire to leave the campus," the university said in an e-mail to students.

The Hong Kong Baptist University suspended on-campus teaching two weeks before the scheduled end of the semester, switching to either online sessions or postponing classes altogether. It also announced online teaching arrangements for students who choose to return to China.

It was not immediately clear how many Chinese students have left Hong Kong during the latest escalation of violence.

Pro-democracy protesters yesterday stepped up a "blossom everywhere" campaign, in which small groups of people target as many parts of the city as possible to cause maximum disruption and stretch police resources.

This campaign has crippled the international financial hub this week and ignited some of the worst violence in five months of unrest.

The new phase in the crisis has forced shopping malls to close and shut down large chunks of the vital train network.

Yesterday, commuters across many parts of the city woke to the increasingly familiar scenario of roads choked with bricks, bicycles, couches and other materials that had been laid out by the protesters overnight to block traffic.

Various lines on the subway - used by more than half of the city's 7.5 million people daily - were also suspended due to vandalism, forcing many workers to stay at home. Dozens of bus routes were also affected.

Protesters had until this week largely confined their actions to evenings and the weekends. - AFP