Hong Kong officer hit by arrow as activists vow to ‘squeeze economy’

HONG KONG (AFP) – A police officer was struck in the leg by an arrow shot by a Hong Kong activist yesterday, the city’s force said, as fierce clashes raged at a university which has become a fulcrum of protests.

Images showed the arrow embedded in the calf of the police officer, who was working with the force’s media liasion team at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), the scene of fierce clashes. A statement said he was taken to hospital in “a conscious state”.

Police deployed water cannon and tear gas against protesters occupying the campus in the Hung Hom area of Kowloon, now a key battleground as the demonstrators fight to keep a stranglehold on the Cross-Harbour Tunnel nearby, blocked since Tuesday.

Activists have vowed to “squeeze the economy” as the increasingly divided city reels from one of the worst weeks of violence in the months-long crisis.

Protests have swept the global financial hub since June as many in the city of 7.5 million people have vented fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.

A protestor prepares to fire an arrow during a confrontation with police at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. PHOTO: AP

A marked change in tactics last week to a ‘Blossom Everywhere’ campaign of blockades and vandalism stretched the police force, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and forced schools and shopping malls to close.

Students and protesters occupied several major universities around the city – the first time a movement characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability has coagulated in fixed locations.

A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue today. “Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.

The education bureau said schools will remain closed at the start of the week “for the sake of safety”.

The protests started against a now shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality.

Two people have died this month as the violence worsened, while the financial hub has been pushed into a recession by the turmoil.

Hong Kong’s airport authority yesterday said October traffic figures were down 13 per cent on last year with 5.4 million passengers.

Black-clad activists, known as “braves”, threw Molotov cocktails at water cannon vehicles as they fired blue water towards them at PolyU, although their flimsy umbrellas were useless against the jets.

At one point a black armoured vehicle advanced towards the barricades, but it was forced to reverse after protesters launched bricks and several petrol bombs which caught alight under the van’s chassis.

Some protesters, who have been seen practising with powerful archery longbows in recent days, fired at police.