HONG KONG — The threat of violence hung over Hong Kong Thursday evening as thousands of student protesters prepared to face off with riot police, amid a continued occupation of several of the city’s most prestigious universities.
The level of unrest and destruction in the almost six-month-long protest movement has reached new and unnerving heights in recent days, with several people critically injured and Chinese state media warning radical protesters, “You are on the edge of doom.”
Sporadic clashes broke out Thursday morning, as police fired tear gas at protesters near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon. While on Hong Kong Island, roads surrounding the University of Hong Kong were blocked by protesters, resulting in traffic delays.
Universities have emerged as a new focal point of the protest movement, with numerous campuses across the city becoming home to heavily fortified temporary protest camps.
At the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in the New Territories, several thousand protesters have effectively barricaded themselves inside the grounds, blocking all entrances for the third straight day.
The CUHK campus was on Tuesday the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the city since demonstrations began in June, with hundreds of riot police firing more than 1,567 canisters of tear gas during a chaotic and ultimately aborted clearance operation.
Throughout Wednesday and Thursday, protesters and those helping them continued to pour into the sprawling grounds by road and by foot, bringing supplies, including protective gear, food, and water.
A highly organized operation was launched inside the campus, sorting and distributing the supplies, building and reinforcing barricades, and stockpiling weapons, including petrol bombs, bows and arrows, javelins, and pieces of wood hammered with nails.
So far police have appeared reticent to return to the university despite a Hong Kong court rejecting an application by students to block police from entering the campus without a warrant.
Many overseas students studying at the university have been asked to leave by their home colleges and CUHK administrators announced the early cancellation of classes, stopping the fall semester around two weeks early. On Wednesday, police said they had evacuated several students from mainland China via police boats because the roads were blocked by protesters.
The effects of the campus unrest could be felt across the city on Thursday, with continued travel disruptions and protesters, including large numbers of office workers on their lunch break, taking over the busy streets in Central district for a fourth straight day. Office workers also came out in support of the student protesters in Tai Koo, in the east of the city.
Two of the three tunnels connecting Hong Kong Island with the Kowloon peninsula, including the busiest Cross-Harbour Tunnel, were closed to traffic Thursday morning and the MTR continued to suspend service at several stations.
All schools have suspended classes for the rest of the week — the first such instance since protests began.
(PHOTO: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)