Hong Kong protest
Hong Kong protest youTube grab/ VOA News

In a fresh flare up in Hong Kong, that has seen massive protests for the past six months, protesters set the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's entrance on fire. Along with the university, several nearby bridges were set ablaze. The university turned into a fortress and saw massive clashes between the protesters and police forces, before being set ablaze early on Monday.

This was done in an attempt to stop the riot police from entering the university campus. The police forces were repelled for sometime, but later stormed inside the university, Sky News reported.

The protesters have also been reported to have set nearby bridges on fire, the most prominent among them is a long footbridge that connected the university with a nearby train station. Throughout Sunday, major clashes, where the protesters who had taken positions on the university's terrace, catapulted arrows, bricks and other hard objects. They also hurled petrol bombs on the security forces.

In the skirmish, a police officer was wounded badly in his leg after he was shot with an arrow. On its part, the police deployed tear gas and water cannons. The police said in a statement that "Such attacks pose a grave threat to the safety of police officers, reporters and first aides at the scene".

In an earlier statement, the university said some dangerous chemicals had been stolen from laboratories and condemned the protesters' "illegal acts and violence" in the campus which, they say, has been "widely damaged". "We understand that students care about the current social situation, however, they must be calm and rational when fighting for anything," the statement said. "Resorting to violence or other radical acts will not help solve the problem."

In a strong-worded statement, calling protesters as 'rioters' the police said on Sunday, "Rioters continue to launch hard objects and petrol bombs with large catapults at police officers". The police also gave an ultimatum to the protesters to either leave the campus, or else it would use live bullets.

On Saturday, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) interfered in the matter for the first time, not to contain the protests, but to clean up the debris from the streets. Dressed in shorts and t-shirts, the PLA soldiers helped residents in cleaning up the streets as a "voluntary community activity".

Hong Kong has been rocked by widespread protests that first erupted in June, over an extradition bill that would have allowed convicts to be extradited to the mainland, which was seen as a major erosion to the autonomy that the former British colony enjoys. Though the bill was withdrawn, the protests rapidly escalated into pro-democracy protests, and later turned violent.

Hong Kong was a former British colony that was handed over to China in 1997, and is governed under 'One country, two systems', with larger autonomy vis-a-vis China's other provinces.