Hong Kong awoke to a third straight day of chaos Wednesday following a night of intense battles between pro-democracy protesters and riot police on a university campus that saw some of the most violent scenes in more than five months of unrest.
Morning commuters were faced with closed metro stations, a suspended rail line and dozens of cancelled bus services a day after police warned that the rule of law in the territory was on “the brink of total collapse”.
On Tuesday, the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus was the epicentre of the protests. The clashes raged well into the night, despite faculty and staff trying to mediate, with flames lighting up the night sky and dense clouds of acrid smoke.
Pitched battles also saw bricks being thrown on the streets of the Central business district and fires lit in shopping malls while tear gas, water canon and rubber bullets were used against protesters who responded with bricks and petrol bombs.
The clashes followed a particularly brutal day on Monday, when police shot a protester and a man was set on fire.
After months of largely confining their most disruptive protests to the weekends, protesters angry at Beijing’s tightening control over Hong Kong have been pushing new tactics targeting the working week.
On Wednesday, road junctions across the city were littered with debris and objects placed by protesters as they heeded overnight calls put out on messaging forums to hit their local neighbourhoods in a bid to keep the police stretched and distracted from the Chinese University campus.
In the district of Mongkok, one of the most regular flashpoint neighbourhoods in recent months, barricades made from debris and bamboo scaffolding could be seen for hundreds of metres, choking one of the city’s main arteries. Pockets of protesters remained out and one man was beaten for taking photos of them.
In many neighbourhoods, main roads were devoid of traffic, trams and buses and locals formed long queues for taxis and buses.
The city’s education authorities said parents could decide whether to send children to school “due to traffic and emergencies”, while some international schools remained closed for a second straight day.
At the Chinese University campus, students held watch through the night, fearing police might return.
Many slept on the campus sports track and in the bleachers. Others played football to pass the time as they took turns manning barricades on a bridge where the main battles earlier that night took place.