A Hong Kong police officer has been hit in the leg by an arrow as authorities used tear gas and water cannon to drive away protesters occupying a university campus and blocking a major road tunnel under the city’s harbour.
The clashes on Sunday came after a day of relative calm that followed one of the most violent weeks in more than five months of anti-government unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
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Police said the arrow struck a media liaison officer and he was taken to a hospital. Photos on the department’s Facebook page show the arrow sticking out of the back of the officer’s lower leg through his pants.
Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Hong Kong, said the university and its surroundings is the last stand of the protesters.
“This is where the protesters still feel that they can send a message to the government that they are able to stop the city from functioning normally and disrupt the city,” she said.
The pro-democracy protesters held their ground for most of the day, as water cannon trucks drove over bricks and nails strewn by demonstrators to spray them at close range.
They began retreating into Hong Kong Polytechnic University near sunset, fearing they would be trapped as police fired tear gas volleys and approached from the opposite direction.
In the university courtyard, civil engineer Joris, 23, said he was prepared to go to jail in his fight against the government. Those shooting arrows were protecting themselves, he said.
“The police violence has been over the top,” he told Reuters news agency. “The protesters have been reacting to the police. We haven’t fought back as much as we could. I would be prepared for jail. We are fighting for Hong Kong.”
Reuters reported that a high-pitched wailing came from at least one police vehicle, suggesting a new tactic to try to clear the crowds. Police confirmed the use of a “long-range acoustic device”.
Chinese soldiers in a base close to the university were seen monitoring developments with binoculars, some dressed in riot gear with canisters on their chests.
On Saturday, troops belonging toChina’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) briefly left their barracks to help Hong Kong residents clean up debris left by demonstrators, in a move that could stoke further controversy over the city’s status.
Since early June, Hong Kong has been rocked by protests triggered by a bill that would have allowed the extradition of accused individuals to mainland China to stand trial.
Although the proposed law has now been withdrawn, public anger has been driven by the authorities’ refusal to address protesters’ demands for an independent inquiry against alleged police brutality; amnesty for the nearly 600 people charged with offences stemming from the protests; a retraction of police claims that protesters are guilty of rioting; and universal suffrage to elect the full legislature and chief executive.
In recent weeks, calls for disbanding, or at least reorganising, the police force have grown out of public anger, with critics alleging indiscriminate and rampant use of force.