Schools closed as protests out chokehold on Hong Kong
Hong Kong: Hong Kong authorities ordered schools and universities closed Thursday as protesters challenging China's rule brought parts of the city to a near standstill by barricading roads and disrupting public transport links.
Six months of anti-government political action have morphed from peaceful mass rallies into a so-called "blossom everywhere" campaign of violent hit-and-run confrontations with police by groups of black-clad protesters.
Key arterial roads were cut by brick and bamboo barricades, a cross-harbour tunnel was closed, and metro stations and bus services suspended -- leaving many of the city's 7.5 million people struggling to get to work.
Authorities ordered schools and universities to close until next week, while hospitals deferred non-emergency operations.
The government urged employers to be flexible with workers trapped in the gridlock.
Of those who made it to work, some joined lunchtime rallies across the city -- including in the city's financial hub -- part of an increasingly emboldened white-collar support base for the protest movement.
Shouting "Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong", thousands of office workers blocked roads through Central district as broad-based strike entered its fourth day.
"A lot of young people have been hurt... so we have to come out," a legal worker who only gave her surname as Chan told AFP.
"They have sacrificed too much for us, so Hong Kongers must come out." The protests began in June as a kickback against an attempt by the city's Beijing-backed government to hustle through an extradition bill.
The bill was eventually shelved, but demonstrations have snowballed into a wider demand for democracy by protesters who fear the city's unique freedoms are being hacked back by Beijing.
Violence has intensified this week across the financial hub, leaving several people badly hurt, stretching police resources and hammering the transport network.
The first volleys of tear gas were fired early Thursday by police near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, as a call went out for protesters to mass at the campus.
In a Facebook post, police accused "rioters" of shooting "arrows at several police officers who were patrolling" near the Polytechnic.
Students are using a novel arsenal of weapons to defend themselves and attack police, from giant makeshift catapults to bow and arrows looted from sports departments. They have also used tennis rackets to volley tear gas canisters back at police.
"Urgent! Poly is in a battle! Need people! Need supplies!" a post said on LIHKG -- an online forum widely used by the largely leaderless movement as the campus became a focal point for Thursday's action.