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Arrows fired in Hong Kong campus stand-off

Anti-government protesters prepare molotov cocktails during clashes with police, outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China, November 17, 2019. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There have been fierce clashes near Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Protesters occupying a university in Hong Kong have been firing arrows and launching petrol bombs at police with catapults as they seek to keep control of a barricaded university.

A media liaison officer was wounded in the leg with an arrow as violence once again flared in the Chinese territory.

Images showed the arrow embedded in the officer's leg outside the campus of the Polytechnic University (PolyU).

Months of anti-government protests have caused turmoil in the city.

Protests were triggered by a now-withdrawn plan to allow extradition to mainland China but have since expanded into wider demands for greater democracy and for investigations into the actions of police.

The government recently confirmed the city had entered its first recession for a decade.

Protests in Hong Kong

Most recently, Hong Kong's university campuses have been the scenes of pitched battles between police and demonstrators.

On Sunday, riot police fired tear gas and used water cannon against protesters at the PolyU, who launched bricks and petrol bombs at them. Protesters took cover behind umbrellas on a footbridge and set light to debris there, causing a huge fire.

The blaze triggered a number of small explosions, witnesses said, and fire crews eventually moved in to douse the flames.

Image caption The officer was struck close to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Police have told students in the university campus that they must leave immediately. Dozens have reportedly been arrested but hundreds remain barricaded inside.

Pro-democracy lawmakers are trying to enter the campus to communicate with those inside, the South China Morning Post newspaper reports. There are fears of bloodshed should police move in to quell what they have now declared a riot.

A reporter with the Reuters news agency at the campus says there are "grave fears of a bloody showdown".

In a statement the university urged those occupying the campus to leave ..

"Universities are venues for advancing knowledge and nurturing talents. Universities are not battlegrounds for political disputes and should not be drawn into violent confrontations" it read.

Image caption A footbridge near the Cross-Harbour Tunnel was set alight

There have been heavy clashes on a bridge above the Cross Harbour tunnel, which links Kowloon and Hong Kong island.

A police truck on the bridge was set on fire and forced to retreat.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters have been holding a bridge above the Cross Harbour tunnel
Image caption Protesters armed with bows and arrows have been seen on the PolyU campus

Police said the wounded officer had been on duty near the PolyU when he was hit by the arrow on Sunday afternoon.

"Such acts are life-threatening to everyone on the scene," a statement on Facebook said.

"The force strongly condemns the violent acts of rioters and is carrying out its dispersal and arrest actions now. We call on citizens not to head towards the PolyU area as the situation is sharply deteriorating."

On Saturday, Chinese soldiers in shorts and T-shirts took to the streets to help clean up debris and remove barricades. It was the first time since the protests erupted that Chinese soldiers, who very rarely leave their barracks in Hong Kong, had taken to the streets.

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Media captionChinese soldiers, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, help clean up Hong Kong's streets

Why are there protests?

Hong Kong - a British colony until 1997 - is part of China under a model known as "one country, two systems".

Under this model, Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy and people have freedoms unseen in mainland China.

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Media captionHow Hong Kong got trapped in a cycle of violence

The protests started in June after the government planned to pass a bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

Many feared this bill would undermine the city's freedoms and judicial independence.

The bill was eventually withdrawn but the protests continued, having evolved into a broader revolt against the police, and the way Hong Kong is administered by Beijing.