HONG KONG – Hong Kong was paralyzed for a third consecutive day as pro-democracy protesters prepared to target dozens of locations around the city later Wednesday, a night after chaotic battles between riot police and student protesters left a university campus resembling a combat zone.

Bus routes, train services and major roads were suspended Wednesday, as a general strike called in reaction to the death of a young demonstrator again brought chaos for commuters. At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the scene of Tuesday night’s confrontations, and other institutions, students from mainland China and elsewhere began to evacuate the city due to escalating political unrest.

Education officials said all school classes would be suspended Thursday, and some universities canceled programs until the end of the semester. As dusk fell, protesters resumed setting up barricades and roadblocks in preparation for fresh confrontations with riot squads.

The rapidly deteriorating situation has fueled fears of dramatic intervention by the Chinese government. Beijing has backed the government of Hong Kong, a semiautonomous territory and one of the world’s largest financial centers, in ramping up repression to try to squelch the unrest.

On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that Beijing would not compromise with demonstrators, who are demanding full democracy for Hong Kong and an independent inquiry into police violence throughout more than five months of unrest.

“Hong Kong’s problem is not about human rights or democracy, rather it’s about stopping violence and chaos, restoring order,” spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing. Chinese state media condemned protesters as “black-clad rioters” endangering lives.


At the Chinese University, one of Hong Kong’s top colleges, there was a welcome respite Wednesday after dramatic clashes overnight when riot police fired 2,000 rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets as they attempted to storm the campus and were beaten back by protesters armed with gasoline bombs and bricks.

Police said Wednesday that they had strong suspicions the Chinese University had become a “weapons factory.” The university said it strongly condemned the violence, noting that a number of students were injured.

With the crisis escalating, and classes suspended, some students took the chance to leave Hong Kong. The Chinese government’s liaison office in the city, which represents Beijing’s interests, set up a hotline to help students trying to get back across the border.

The Marine Police used a patrol launch to evacuate Chinese students, ferrying them from a nearby pier across a cove, where they could make arrangements for leaving. All train and bus routes to the university were canceled, and surrounding roads were blocked.

“My parents wanted me to leave and get out of Hong Kong,” said Yuki, 19, a student from China’s Hubei Province, as she left for the mainland city of Shenzhen. Although she was unsettled by protesters’ vandalism of pro-government businesses, Yuki said she knew that she would be safe if she stayed out of the protesters’ way, and planned to return when classes resume.

Jay Thuluri, a Chinese University exchange student from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, said he plans to return to the United States on Thursday after his parents told him to get out. “I came here to study, now I cannot study because school is suspended. There is no point for me to stay here with the potential of dangerous situations,” he said.


At another college, Hong Kong Baptist University, dozens of protesters erected barricades at road junctions around the campus, using street barriers, bricks and scaffolding.

A 24-year-old woman who gave her name only as K, out of fear of reprisals, said that the police had “crossed the line” by storming the Chinese University.

“Campus is supposed to be one of the safest places,” she said. “The [Chinese] University is a symbol of liberty and democracy and they are trying to attack it. That’s why students are trying so hard to defend it.”

In the central business district, office workers occupied downtown streets during their lunch breaks, chanting “save our students!” and cheering front-line protesters who faced down riot police. As the narrow streets filled with tear gas fired by police, hundreds ran away coughing, while dozens were subdued on the doorsteps of the financial hub’s luxury shops.

Protesters are pushing back against Beijing’s increasing encroachment on Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy, which China promised to maintain until 2047 when it resumed sovereignty from Britain in 1997.

Along with other demands, protesters are calling for the right to elect Hong Kong’s leader. The current chief executive, Carrie Lam, has withdrawn the extradition bill that initially sparked the unrest but has refused demands for political liberalization and an inquiry into police use of force.


“We want to choose a true chief executive for the Hong Kong people,” said besuited office worker Dennis Tang, 25, as he called on others to join the protesters. “In these five months Carrie Lam has pushed Hong Kong to hell, and has used the police as a tool to suppress the people.”

Hong Kong’s chief secretary, Matthew Cheung, said the government “has the ability and determination to end the violence” and fully supports the police.

The unrest poses a direct challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The Chinese government has accused foreign forces, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the unrest.

Sonny Lo, a political analyst and expert on Hong Kong-China relations, said Hong Kong now faced a “system failure” and needed intermediaries, such as university chiefs, to sit down with government leaders and hammer out a solution.

“Beijing says its bottom line is ‘all this violence has to stop.’ It’s up to the Hong Kong government leadership itself to design measures [in response], but all the measures have been so hard-line.” There had to be “carrots” as well as a “stick,” he said.