Hong Kong police storm university campus after all-night standoff with protesters

  • Video report by ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

Hong Kong police have stormed into a university held by protesters after an all-night standoff.

Riot officers entered the Hong Kong Polytechnic University before dawn on Monday, after anti-government protesters barricaded themselves inside the campus for days.

Fiery explosion could be seen inside the university, and police had fired repeated barrages of tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators outside the campus since before midnight.

While protesters responded by hurling petrol bombs at armoured vehicles, setting a truck alight.

Police surrounded the area on Sunday night and began moving in after issuing an ultimatum for people to leave the area.

A policeman in riot gear detains a protester outside of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Credit: AP
Protesters react as police fire tear gas on them near Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Credit: AP

Earlier in the day one officer was hit in the leg with an arrow.

Photos on the department’s Facebook page show the arrow sticking out of the back of the officer’s leg.

Riot officers broke into the campus before dawn as fires raged inside and outside the school and as police moved in, some protesters retreated inside the university and others set fires on bridges leading to it.

A huge blaze burned along much of a long footbridge that connects a train station to the campus over the approach to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, a major road under Hong KongΓÇÖs harbor that has been blocked by the protesters for days.

Fires burn at the steps to Hong Kong Polytechnic University as police storm the campus. Credit: AP
A protester prepares to fire a bow and arrow during a confrontation with police at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University Credit: Kin Cheung/AP

The use of bows and arrows, along with petrol bombs launched with catapults, threatened to escalate the violence in the more than five-month-long anti-Government movement.

Protesters are trying to keep the pressure on Hong Kong leaders, who have rejected most of their demands.

The protests were sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland.

Activists saw it as an erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” formula implemented in 1997, when the UK returned the territory to China.

The Bill has been withdrawn but the protests have expanded into a wider resistance movement against what is perceived as the growing control of Hong Kong by communist China, along with calls for full democracy for the territory.

A fire burns at barricades built by protesters near the entrance to the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong. Credit: AP

Police and protesters faced off all day on Sunday after a pitched battle the previous night in which the two sides exchanged tear gas and petrol bombs that left fires blazing in the street.

A large group of people arrived in the morning to try to clean up the road but were warned away by protesters.

Riot police shot several volleys of tear gas at the protesters, who sheltered behind a wall of umbrellas and threw petrol bombs into nearby bushes and trees, setting them on fire.

The protesters held their ground for most of the day, as water cannon trucks drove over bricks and nails strewn by protesters to spray them at close range – some with water dyed blue to help police identify protesters afterwards.

Police spray protesters with blue-dyed liquid Credit: AP

Protesters began retreating into the university near sunset, fearing they would be trapped as police fired tear gas volleys and approached from other directions.

The protesters have barricaded the entrances to the campus and set up narrow access control points.

They are the holdouts from larger groups that occupied several major campuses for much of last week.

Another group threw bricks in the street to block a main thoroughfare in the Mongkok district, as police fired tear gas to try to disperse them.

The disruption to Nathan Road traffic may have been an attempt to distract police during the standoff at Polytechnic.

Soldiers arrive to clean up the protest area at Hong Kong Baptist University Credit: Television Broadcasts Limited Hong Kong/AP

Opposition politicians criticised the Chinese military for joining a cleanup to remove debris from streets near Hong Kong Baptist University on Saturday.

Dozens of Chinese troops, dressed in black shorts and olive drab T-shirts, ran out in loose formation and picked up paving stones, rocks and other obstacles that had cluttered the street

The military is allowed to help maintain public order but only at the request of the Hong Kong Government.

The Government said it had not requested the military’s assistance, describing it as a voluntary community activity.