Police earlier threatened to use live rounds on rioters who used lethal weapons such as molotov cocktails against them
Police attempted to storm Hong Kongs Polytechnic University after a daylong battle with protesters which saw levels of violence between the two sides reach new heights on Sunday and officials threatened to use live rounds.
About 200 demonstrators remained inside the building at dawn on Monday morning when police in riot gear moved in. As they advanced, protesters set fire to one of the entrances to the university and explosions could be heard.
The move came after a day of clashes at Polytechnic University in Kowloon, during which officers fired teargas and water cannon and drove an armoured vehicle at demonstrators throwing molotov cocktails, the police said in a video statement the force would use live rounds on the rioters if they did not stop using lethal weapons to attack officers.
After attempting to enter the university the police again pulled back.
Overnight, police launched an operation to flush out protesters who had barricaded themselves inside the university, creating a cordon to prevent protesters from escaping as they move in. The remaining protesters had assembled an arsenal of petrol bombs and bows and arrows to resist, despite the police warning.
During the day on Sunday, the university, which has been taken over by protesters since clashes last week, became the site of some of the longest, tensest clashes between anti-government demonstrators and police of the last five months.
As a helicopter hovered overhead, riot police shot blue-dyed liquid laced with pepper spray at protesters who set fire to a pedestrian bridge packed with furniture, umbrellas and other materials, causing a blaze that was later put out by firefighters. Protesters on a roof of the university used catapults as well as bows and arrows to shoot at police, with one arrow striking an officer in the calf.
They also occupied a flyover and threw petrol bombs at riot police, setting off explosions and sending flames into the sky. An armoured vehicle drove towards protesters but was stopped by a barricade and pelted with molotov cocktails until it caught fire.
The main goal is to protect the campus and prevent people from getting arrested, said Rudy Lau, 27, an alumnus of the university. Using binoculars, he monitored a group of police outside the grounds, and alerted others to their movements.
People are trying everything. Most of the actions we do are indeed pointless because the Chinese government is not budging. So we just have to try to do everything and keep the momentum going, he said.
Owen Li, a PolyU council member and student, said panic had taken hold of the estimated few hundred protesters who remained. Many friends feel helpless we appeal to all of society to come out and help us.
Thousands of residents and protesters flocked to various districts around the university to try to penetrate the riot-police lines to rescue the trapped students.
If we can only hold on till dawn, more might come, said one young activist in the university who was close to exhaustion.
By late evening on Sunday, the unrest had spread, as protesters and their supporters took to the streets in at least five other locations to draw police resources away from the university. Hundreds of protesters gathered in Jordan, also in Kowloon, and lit a barricade as police pursued them with teargas and water cannon.
Volunteers also parked their cars in the middle of roads leading to the university, prompting the police to issue a statement ordering drivers not to block the roads and obstruct a police operation.
At the university, dozens were arrested as they tried to leave, following a police order to evacuate by a specified exit.
The confrontation, a continuation of the fighting from the night before, began in the morning when protesters were seen throwing bricks at residents trying to clear a blockaded road. It continued into the late evening, when police declared the unrest a riot and warned that anyone who remained on the campus or assisted the perpetrators would be considered a rioter.