HK university campuses turn into battlegrounds
Police also fire tear gas in Central business district to disperse protesters
HONG KONG: Police in Hong Kong fired tear gas yesterday in the heart of the Central financial district and on two university campuses to break up pro-democracy protests that they said were bringing the city to the "brink of total breakdown".
The clashes came a day after police shot a protester at close range and a man was set on fire in some of the worst violence in the city in decades.
A flash mob of more than 1,000 protesters, many wearing office clothes and face masks, rallied in Central for a second day during lunch hour.
After they had dispersed, police fired tear gas at the remaining protesters in the old and narrow Pedder Street. Police made more than a dozen arrests, many pinned up on the pavement against the wall of luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co. Police later sealed off Pedder Street.
"Our society has been pushed to the brink of a total breakdown," a police spokesman told a briefing. He said masked "rioters" had committed "insane" acts, such as throwing trash, bicycles and other debris onto metro tracks and overhead power lines, paralysing the transport system.
He said the man set on fire on Monday was still in critical condition and appealed for information on who was responsible.
Police also fired tear gas at City University of Hong Kong in Kowloon Tong and at Chinese University of Hong Kong, where protesters threw petrol bombs and bricks at police.
Protesters at City University have stockpiled bricks and petrol bombs.
They had overrun the campus and were smashing up the next-door Festival Walk shopping mall and setting fires.
Streets inside and outside the Chinese University campus entrance were littered with bricks, other debris and small street fires as police tackled some protesters to the ground.
BOWS & ARROWS
The university said some people had broken into a storeroom and taken bows, arrows and javelins that were later retrieved.
China's Foreign Ministry yesterday said putting an end to violence is the city's most important task.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: "China's central government firmly supports the Hong Kong SAR government in administering the law and supports the... police in strictly enforcing the law, protecting social order and the safety of Hong Kong citizens."
He also hit back at criticism from the US and Britain after a protester was shot trying to grab a policeman's gun. He said no country would allow the snatching of an officer's firearm or allow him to be attacked. - REUTERS