HONG KONG — Police laid siege to a Hong Kong university Monday, forcing back anti-government protesters armed with Molotov cocktails and other homemade weapons as some tried to escape the campus where hundreds are believed to be holed up.Police had the campus of Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University surrounded most of Sunday and into Monday, using water cannons, tear gas and heavy police vehicles in a dramatic escalation of the demonstrations that have swept the semi-autonomous Chinese territory since June.Local Broadcaster RTHK quoted student union acting president Ken Woo early Monday saying that at least 500 people are still inside the campus and he believed some 70-100 intended to leave, but were pushed back.
Dozens of protesters tried to break through police lines, Reuters reported. Many, dressed in regular clothes and without gas masks, made a run for it, dodging tear gas canisters and sponge grenades, only to be forced back inside. Some were arrested and tackled to the ground.A lull settled on the area as the president of the university said in a video message that that police have agreed to suspend their use of force, according to the Associated Press.The city’s Cross-Harbour Tunnel, next to the Polytechnic university, linking Hong Kong island to the Kowloon peninsula, remained closed after protesters burned a bridge above the toll booths on Sunday.Earlier on Sunday, a police media officer was shot with an arrow that penetrated his leg.
Police said in a press conference Monday they have arrested 157 people, aged between 11 and 83 years old, since the escalation on Friday.They also appealed to the people inside the campus to drop their weapons and leave, warning that those who don’t will be charged with rioting.
Reuters quoted a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration as saying that the United States condemned the “unjustified use of force” in Hong Kong.”Meanwhile, hundreds of people took to the streets of the central business district Monday in the latest in a series of lunchtime protests that have taken place since the beginning of last week.
Local authorities said all schools will be closed on Tuesday while kindergartens and special schools will be closed for the rest of the week.Amid the escalation of violence, protesters celebrated a legal victory as Hong Kong’s High Court ruled Monday that a British colonial-era emergency law revived by the government to ban protesters wearing face masks was unconstitutional.Jasmine Leung reported from Hong Kong, and Yuliya Talmazan reported from London.