Hong Kong riot police have fired tear gas at a university campus, a day after two demonstrators were critically injured in some of the worst violence in more than five months of anti-government protests.
Disruption was felt across Hong Kong on Tuesday as police prepared for further unrest in the territory. While subways were partially shut down, protesters and police faced off in and around several university campuses as classes were canceled.
A flash mob of over 1,000 protesters, many wearing office clothes and face masks, rallied in central Hong Kong for a second day during lunch hour, blocking roads below some of the city's tallest skyscapers and most expensive real estate.
Blocking streets and metro stations has been a common tactic employed by the anti-government demonstrators.
"Our society has been pushed to the brink of a total breakdown," a police spokesperson told a briefing.
On Monday, a police officer drew his gun during a struggle with protesters, shooting one in the abdomen. In another neighborhood, a person was set on fire after an apparent argument. The Hong Kong hospital authority said both were in critical condition. Police say those events are being investigated, but defend the officers' actions as necessary for their own safety.
According to authorities, at least 260 people were detained in connection with the unrest on Monday. More than 3,000 citizens have been arrested since the protests began in June.
Recent weeks have been marked by escalating violence and vandalism against shops and train stations as well as assaults by both protesters and pro-Beijing supporters.
Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, said Monday that the violence in the region had gone too far and that demonstrators were now the enemy of the people. She said protesters were indulging in "wishful thinking" if they thought violence would achieve political change.
Lam continued her criticism of protesters on Tuesday as she accused them of trying to "paralyze" the city and of being extremely selfish. She also hoped all universities and schools would urge students not to participate in violence.
Lam pledged to stop the violent protests in comments suggesting harsher legal and police measures could be coming. "I do not want to go into details, but I just want to make it very clear that we will spare no effort in finding ways and means that could end the violence in Hong Kong as soon as possible," she said.
US, UK monitoring closely
The United States has expressed "grave concern" over recent developments in Hong Kong and has condemned violence on all sides, a US State Department spokeswoman said late Monday.
The US has also urged China to honor commitments that Hong Kong will "enjoy a high degree of autonomy," the spokeswoman added.
The UK, meanwhile, said the latest violence was "deeply disturbing."
"Political dialogue is the only way forward and we want to see the Hong Kong authorities agree a path to resolve this situation," Downing Street said in a statement.
The Chinese government, however, urged the US and the UK not to interfere. "Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. We urge the United States,, United Kingdom and other countries to earnestly respect China's sovereignty," said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang.
The protests in Hong Kong began over a proposed law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to places including mainland China, where they could face opaque and politically sensitive trials. Activists saw the bill as another sign of the erosion in the territory's autonomy and civic freedoms, which Beijing promised would be maintained for 50 years under a "one nation, two systems" principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.
sri, jsi/rt (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)