Reminiscent of the February 1971 University of the Philippines Commune, Hongkong pro-democracy protestors turned a university into their own camp and fought anti-riot policemen with everything they got, further prolonging one of the most violent scenes of unrest ever in more than five months of political struggle against the island’s China-controlled government.
Violent confrontation intensified after police shot a protester and a man was set on fire a day before. The occupation of the Chinese University of Hongkong turned the once placid hillside into a new flashpoint, a convenient battlefield for protesters who engage police from a more strategic and favorable position.
Cops fired volleys of tear gas as well as rubber bullets to break the protestors ranks who replied with their molotov bombs, bricks, and everything they can get their hands on. The scene reminded Filipinos of the brutal clashes students from the University of the Philippines in Diliman did with members of the Philippine Constabulary under former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Termed the “Diliman Commune”, it began as a massive uproar of protests from students and academics who militated against a three centavo increase in fuel prices and the repeated intrusions of the military into the campus. For several days, the entire Diliman campus was turned into a veritable commune, with students occupying buildings, and resisting attempts by police to regain these public structures.
Flash forward, and we find this very same thing not in the Philippines, but in Hongkong, as clashes raged well into the night, with flames lighting up the grayish skies and dense clouds of acrid smoke visible even from Victoria peak.
The AFP reports that cops eventually used water cannon to force a break of the ranks, but it failed. The day ended with the university grounds still firmly under the protesters’ control.
Several citizens and students are seen rushing towards the campus to give food and other supplies to those holed up in the university.
For the past two days, protesters have blocked roads during rush hour, disrupted rail operations and occupied roads leading to the Central business district. Hundreds of hard-core protesters responded back with molotov bombs and brick throwing as police shot them with rubber bullets and threw volleys of tear gas canisters.
“Hong Kong’s rule of law has been pushed to the brink of total collapse,” police spokesman Kong Wing-cheung told a press conference on Tuesday as he defended the force against seething public anger.
“This kind of hair-raising behavior has caused terror and anxiety among the broader Hong Kong public,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing.
The United States and its European ally, Great Britain called on Beijing and Hongkong to seek a political solution to these outbreaks of pro-democracy violence.
Those statements came after a police officer on Monday shot a 21-year-old protester, with that incident broadcast live on Facebook by a bystander.
Both the man set alight and the shot protester remained in critical condition on Tuesday, hospital authorities said.
Tensions had initially spiked following the death last week of a young man who fell from a multi-storey car park during clashes with police.
He was the first student to die in the five months of protests, and protests over the weekend then escalated at the start of the working week. (reports from AFP)