Anti-government protesters dug in at several university campuses across Hong Kong on Wednesday, setting the stage for further confrontations as police said violence in the Chinese-ruled city had reached a "very risky and even deadly level".
On Wednesday, road junctions across the city were littered with debris and objects placed by protesters as they heeded overnight calls put out on messaging forums to hit their local neighbourhoods in a bid to keep the police stretched and distracted from the Chinese University campus. Wearing now-banned face masks and dressed in office wear, they marched and hurled bricks on to roads lined with some of the world's most expensive real estate and luxury flagship stores.
Scores of riot police tried to disperse the crowds, grappling some people to the ground and beating others with batons near the city's stock exchange.
Police in Hong Kong are warning that the rule of law is on the brink of collapse, after violent clashes on a university campus between students and police.
Activists saw the bill as another sign of an erosion in Hong Kong's autonomy and civic freedoms, which China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a "one nation, two systems" principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.
Numerous clashes took place at university campuses, with a large number of students joining the anti-government protests, despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam urging students to obey the law.
Mainland students have said in online posts that they are being targeted by protesters who have broken into their dormitories, spray-painted insults on walls and banged on their doors, the Beijing Evening News reported.
Lam pledged Monday to stop the violent protests in comments suggesting harsher legal and police measures could be coming.
The Education Bureau plans to shut all schools on Thursday for safety reasons and many financial institutions asked their staff to work from home.
Throughout the night there were chaotic scenes of explosions, smoke, and the firing of rubber bullets.
Highlighting the growing security fears, mainland Chinese students began fleeing Hong Kong on buses and boats back across the border, according to police and universities, although it was not immediately clear how many had left.
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"Rioters" violence reached a very unsafe and even deadly level, ' senior police office Tse Chun-chung told a media briefing.
Most universities, and some schools, said they would close again on Wednesday.
"The rioters' intention is to bring Hong Kong into a total breakdown".
Several subway stations were closed because of the protests, at least five universities canceled classes and office workers were urged to pack up early to ensure they could get home safely. But one officer also fired his revolver at a black-clad protester, striking the college student in the stomach and leaving him in critical condition.
Commuters were stuck or delayed across the city, as demonstrators blocked streets and MTR lines.
"It is very painful to watch my city turn into this".
Despite the heightened violence, one 21-year-old social work major - who asked to remain anonymous - said protesting at the campus provided a certain comfort level compared to street demonstrations.
The Hong Kong hospital authority said the person was initially in critical condition but was stable after surgery.
A rioter holds a Molotov cocktail at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday night.
Hong Kong's stock market dropped 2% to a three-week low in early trade, outpacing falls elsewhere in Asia. Chief Executive Carrie Lam today called those trying to paralyze the city selfish.
Chinese state media condemned the violence with the China Daily newspaper stating that young protesters were revelling in a "hormone-fuelled "rebellion".