Hong Kong protesters set fire to university entrance as police move in

17 November 2019, 17:05 | Updated: 18 November 2019, 00:02

Protesters in Hong Kong have set fire to the entrance of Polytechnic University as police move in.

About 200 anti-government demonstrators remain in or around the university on a day which saw them fire arrows and catapult petrol bombs at police who deployed tear gas and water cannon.

Police officers were initially repelled by the fire but there are now reports that they have stormed the campus as the stand-off stretched into the early hours of Monday.

Police had given protesters an ultimatum to leave, threatening to use live bullets if "rioters" carry out more violence, as the territory suffered some of its worst unrest in six months of demonstrations.

A police media liaison officer was treated in hospital after being hit in the leg with an arrow as the clashes spread across the central Kowloon district.

A number of protesters took up positions on the rooftops of the university, armed with bows and arrows.

While some demonstrators retreated inside the Polytechnic University, others set fires on nearby bridges.

A huge blaze burned along much of a long footbridge that connects a train station to the campus.

The officers deployed tear gas and water cannon on a group wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas.

Police said: "Rioters continue to launch hard objects and petrol bombs with large catapults at police officers.

"Police warn the violent activities in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have escalated to rioting."

Sky's Tom Cheshire said the university had been "fortified" by the protesters and was now the only one still occupied by them.

Reporting from the scene, he said: "All day long, police have been getting closer and closer. They've sealed off every exit.

"The reason this is different now is that things feel more violent. The protesters have occupied the bridges and set fire to them. Massive explosions. We presume there were gas canisters in the fire.

"So it went a bit more violent in that sense.

"And police gave a deadline to protesters. They said, 'If you are not out of here by 10pm we're going to come in and we're going to get you.'

"And now this whole place is on lockdown. Protesters aren't allowed out and no-one is allowed in. It feels a bit like the end game. That's what protesters are telling us."

On Saturday, dozens of Chinese troops, wearing shorts and T-shirts, picked up paving stones, rocks and other obstacles that had cluttered the street near another university.

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 asked for the military's assistance, calling it a voluntary community activity. But their presence on the streets risks stoking tensions further.

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

Demonstrators saw it as an erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy under the one country, two systems formula, introduced in 1997 when Britain returned the territory to China.

The bill has been withdrawn, but the protests have spread into a wider resistance movement against Beijing's perceived growing control, along with calls for full democracy for the territory.

Beijing denies interfering and has blamed foreign governments for fuelling the unrest.