• Monday, Jan 20, 2020
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Thousands in Hong Kong defy Xi with pro-democracy rallies

  • Published at 03:23 pm November 15th, 2019
A roadblock across the Tolo Highway is on fire after protesters threw Molotov cocktails from the bridge next to the Chinese University campus in Hong Kong, China November 15, 2019 Reuters

The five-day 'strike' has also seen major universities become a hub for the protesters

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to Hong Kong's streets Friday, defying a warning by Chinese President Xi Jinping, as a campaign of mass disruption extended into a fifth straight day, reports AFP.

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters partially unblocked a key highway yesterday and then blocked it again during the evening rush hour, exposing splits in a movement that has been largely leaderless in months of often violent unrest, reports Reuters.

The Tolo highway runs along the side of the leafy campus of Chinese University. Protesters blocked it this week and clashed with police, throwing debris and petrol bombs on to the road linking the largely rural New Territories with the Kowloon peninsula to the south.

They turned the campus into a fortress, stockpiled with petrol bombs and bows and arrows as in several other universities, amid some of the worst violence in the former British colony in decades.

But many left after some of them allowed the partial reopening of the highway on Friday, taking others by surprise.

"I am disappointed about the decision to reopen the Tolo highway and it’s not our consensus," one student who gave his name as Cheung, 18, told Reuters.

"I was asleep when they had closed-door meetings. I was worried and scared after I realised what had happened and most protesters had left. I was worried the police might storm in again because so few people are left. Some protesters from the outside have gone too far.”

Chinese University president Rocky Tuan said in an open letter that all outsiders must leave.

"Universities are places to study, not to resolve political disputes, or even a battlefield to create weapons and use force," he said.

"If the university cannot continue to fulfil its basic mission and tasks, we must seek the assistance of relevant government departments to lift the current crisis."

The highway closed again yesterday evening after its partial reopening and the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, outside the barricaded Polytechnic University where protesters have practised firing bows and arrows and throwing petrol bombs in a half-empty swimming pool, remained shut.

Students and protesters, who have barricaded at least five campuses, were burning makeshift roadblocks at Chinese University.

Remaining Chinese University students hunkered down on the bridge over the Tolo highway, black pirate-style freedom flags flying from lookout posts. A few on ladders with binoculars kept watch over the road.

There were only about 200 protesters there on Friday compared to at least 1,000 two days ago. There were also clashes with police in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, one of the most densely populated areas on Earth.

The week has seen a marked intensification of the violence.

A 70-year-old street cleaner, who had been hit in the head by one of several bricks police said had been thrown by "masked rioters", died on Thursday. On Monday, police blamed a "rioter" for dousing a man in petrol and setting him on fire. The victim is in critical condition.

On the same day, police shot a protester in the abdomen. He is in stable condition.

"We can no longer can say Hong Kong is a safe city," Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung told a briefing.