Hong Kong is on ‘Brink of a Total Breakdown’ as Confrontations Between Protesters and Police Escalate Into Violence

Students stand near a charred vehicle during a face-off with riot police at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. Police fired tear gas at protesters who littered streets with bricks and disrupted morning commutes and lunch breaks Tuesday after an especially violent day in Hong Kong’s five months of anti-government demonstrations. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Hong Kong protesters called for disruption to the city’s busy commuter trains Wednesday, as clashes continued late into Tuesday evening. Police said “rioters threw bricks, petrol bombs, launched arrows and even fired a signal flare” at officers during clashes at a university.

The chaos follows a flare-up in violence after Hong Kong last week saw its first fatality linked to the protests that began in June against a bill that would’ve allowed extraditions to mainland China. While the proposal has since been withdrawn, demonstrators have widened their demands to include an independent inquiry into police violence and the ability to nominate and elect their own leaders — both of which Beijing has rejected.

An intense day of clashes on Monday led to at least 260 arrests and around 100 people injured, including two critically. One man was shot by a police officer on Monday during the morning commute, while another was set on fire by protesters. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last night the protesters wouldn’t achieve their goals through violence.

Key developments:

Protesters call for more disruptions to the city’s transport system on Wednesday morning. Tear gas was fired again in the heart of Hong Kong’s business and financial district as riot police confronted protesters who gathered in Central for a second day. Some subway stations were closed and schools and universities shut their doors as protests sprung up around the city. Clashes continued late into the night at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The 21-year-old student protester who was shot and critically injured by police on Monday was formally arrested. Hong Kong Chief Executive Lam has given two press conferences in fewer than 24 hours in which she has urged an end to the disruptions and intimated that protesters will not achieve their goals through violence. District elections are still scheduled to take place on Nov. 24 in what would be the first major democratic exercise held in the city since protests began.

Here’s the latest:

Clashes at Chinese University (11:45 p.m.)

Protests and clashes continue at multiple locations across the city including Mong Kok, Tai Po, Kowloon Tong and Tseung Kwan O. Riot police repeatedly fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

The situation at Chinese University of Hong Kong “continues to intensify,” according to an update from the city’s police issued at 11:27 p.m. As officers were “retreating, rioters threw bricks, petrol bombs, launched arrows and even fired a signal flare” at them, according to the update.

Given that the violence had reached a “deadly level” and emergency services were being hampered, police deployed a so-called Specialised Crowd Management Vehicle to “facilitate retreat.”

“Police warn all rioters to stop all illegal and violent acts, and to leave immediately.”

Clashes at the university appeared to subsequently abate.

Police Fire Blue Dye at Students (10:29 p.m.)

Police fired streams of blue dye at students congregated in the area of a bridge at Chinese University of Hong Kong, after hours of confrontations, including multiple rounds of tear gas. Students set up barricades to stop riot police from charging. A number of students were injured, including one who was suspected to have been knocked unconscious after a head injury, according to Radio Television Hong Kong.

Disruptions planned for Wednesday (8:09 p.m.)

Protesters called for disruptions to MTR train services starting at 6:15 a.m. on Wednesday, as the city’s busy rush hour kicks off, with people planning to board trains until at least 10:30 a.m.

The calls came as clashes again escalated on the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus, with police firing tear gas and protesters and students throwing petrol bombs.

Stocks eke out gains (5:33 p.m.)

Hong Kong stocks rose following Monday’s $118 billion slide, despite continued unrest in the financial district. The Hang Seng Index closed up 0.5% after falling 2.6% on Monday. Citic Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. led gains. Local developers and landlords slipped after starting the session higher. The Hong Kong dollar was little changed. Monday’s tumble came after a rally in the city’s shares that had added $530 billion amid a liquidity-fueled surge in global equities.

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Dominic Lau, Natalie Lung and Iain Marlow