Asia-Pacific

Hong Kong protesters make daring campus breakout by climbing down ropes

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Violent clashes between police and protesters at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have resulted in multiple people arrested and injured.

Dozens of Hong Kong protesters have escaped a besieged university campus by climbing down a rope hanging from a footbridge onto waiting motorcycles after Beijing again warned it could intervene to end the crisis engulfing the city.

Hong Kong police have laid siege to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for two days, firing rubber bullets and tear gas to pin back anti-government protesters armed with petrol bombs and other weapons.

Clashes rumbled into the early hours of Tuesday, as dozens of protesters, choking on the tear gas, tried to leave the campus by breaking through police lines.

Protestors use a rope to lower themselves from a pedestrian bridge to waiting motorbikes in order to escape from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Protestors use a rope to lower themselves from a pedestrian bridge to waiting motorbikes in order to escape from Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
AP

The university siege has become a battle of wills between Hong Kong's stretched police force and the constantly innovating protest movement.

In an apparently coordinated effort, tens of thousands of Hong Kongers streamed towards the campus to break the siege, as clashes simultaneously raged with police nearby in Kowloon.

Several dozen people remained on the campus, one protester said, although a number of minors were allowed to leave after negotiations with politicians.

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Hong Kong: Mass arrests outside university stand off
Hong Kong: Mass arrests outside university stand off

A new phase of violence and drama began last week and has led to chaos throughout the semi-autonomous city of 7.5 million people, with schools closed, train lines disrupted and major roads blocked by barricades.

China has refused to budge on any of the protesters' demands, and warned it will not tolerate dissent in the financial centre.

Many protesters made runs for it, dodging tear gas canisters and sponge grenades only to be forced back.

Some were arrested, tackled to the ground, as others scrambled and tripped over barricades and fences as police pointed guns at them and threw punches.

Anti-government protesters at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Monday.
Anti-government protesters at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Monday.
Getty

"The police might not storm the campus but it seems like they are trying to catch people as they attempt to run," Democratic MP Hui Chi-fung said.

"It's not optimistic now."

Police said officers had been deployed "on the periphery" of the campus for a week, appealing to "rioters" to leave.

Riot police detain protesters near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong
Riot police detain protesters near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong
AP

"All our warnings were ignored," they said in a statement. "Our message was loud and clear, the violence has escalated to rioting."

They said "toxic and dangerous chemicals" had been stolen from the university laboratory.

"We must warn that the university campus has become a powder keg where danger is far beyond what we can estimate."

Police arrested 154 people aged between 13 and 54 over the weekend.

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Dan, a 19-year-old on the campus, burst into tears as he said the protesters had been trapped for too long.

"We need all Hong Kongers to know we need help," he said. "I don't know how much longer we can go on like this. We may need international help."

One 24-year-old protester, who gave his name as "Be Patient", said he nearly suffocated.

There were also running battles in the nearby commercial area of Nathan Road where activists stopped traffic and forced shopping malls and stores to shut.

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Fires rage outside university as protesters clash with police
Fires rage outside university as protesters clash with police

Police said a car tried to hit an officer in nearby Yau Ma Tei, reversing and trying again. Police fired a shot and the driver fled.

Thirty-eight people were wounded overnight on Sunday, the Hospital Authority said. Some suffered burns from chemicals in jets fired from police water cannons.

Police said they fired three live rounds when "rioters" attacked two officers attempting to arrest a woman.

Protestors use an improvised slingshot as blue-dyed liquid is sprayed from an armored police vehicle during a confrontation at Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Protestors use an improvised slingshot as blue-dyed liquid is sprayed from an armored police vehicle during a confrontation at Hong Kong Polytechnic University
AP

No one was wounded and she escaped.

Demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in Hong Kong's promised freedoms when the then British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Protestors duck behind shields as a blue-dyed liquid is sprayed from an armored police vehicle at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Protestors duck behind shields as a blue-dyed liquid is sprayed from an armored police vehicle at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
AP

They say they are responding to excessive police force.

China says it is committed to the "one country, two systems" formula granting Hong Kong autonomy, while the city's police deny accusations of brutality and say they show utmost restraint.

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