Huge battles were taking place in Hong Kong as Socialist Worker went to press, as the authorities escalated their repression of pro-democracy protests.
Police surrounded Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), in the early hours of Monday morning.
They blocked off entrances, trapping around 500 students inside.
Crowds gathered outside PolyU to try and encircle the police. Cops fired tear gas and projectiles at protesters, leaving one demonstrator bleeding from the head.
Students who tried to leave were met with police tear gas and threats of arrest.
One protester said, “I think everyone here shares the sentiment that we will fight fearlessly until our last breath.”
PolyU governing council student representative Oiwan Li said Monday was “a heartbreaking day” for PolyU students. He said that at least three people had suffered eye injuries, and that demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at cops to defend themselves.
“Forty people have shown signs of hypothermia after being sprayed by water cannon,” he added. “But because police have arrested or taken away more first aiders and emergency relief personnel, there are not enough resources to attend to the injured.”
At least 38 people had been injured and sent to hospital by Monday afternoon according to the Hospital Authority.
Around 100 protesters remained in PolyU on Tuesday morning, according to the cops. Police had arrested many, while dozens more escaped by abseiling down ropes on a bridge to waiting motorcycles.
Tens of thousands of protesters had headed towards PolyU earlier on Monday in an effort to break the police siege.
Reports described police with batons beating people who tried to escape the campus.
Protesters had occupied the PolyU campus since last week as part of a plan to hold a city-wide general strike. They built barricades and set off explosives on bridges leading to the campus to try and fend off police.
Monday’s crackdown followed days of big protests, strikes and battles between pro-democracy demonstrators and the cops.
Protesters blocked stations and targeted trains during protests on Wednesday of last week, forcing much public transport to be suspended. They fought police with bricks, petrol bombs and bows and arrows.
The Education Bureau suspended all classes, and said schools were not expected to reopen until Wednesday of this week.
Cops complained that the protest movement was bringing Hong Kong to the “brink of total collapse”.
The death of a student has turned more universities into sites of explosive protests.
At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, protesters built barricades to protect against police tear gas and water cannon. The campus was covered in slogans including, “Ideas are bullet-proof.”
One student said, “I don’t want to resort to violence, but peaceful protest doesn’t change a thing.”
The pro-democracy movement is now into its sixth month, despite the arrests of over 3,000 people since protests began in June.
The movement was sparked by a new bill that would have allowed extraditions of suspects to mainland China. But the issue became a lightning rod for wider discontent.
Unity can lead Hong Kong protesters to victory
The authorities in Hong Kong and China are desperate to paint the pro-democracy movement as unrepresentative, dangerous and futile.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam last week branded demonstrators “extremely selfish” and said hopes that they would win their demands were “wishful thinking”.
China’s state-run People’s Daily newspaper ran a front page on Monday arguing that there is “absolutely no room for compromise” with protesters.
It warned that attempts to challenge the system were “delusional” and “doomed to fail”. And last week, China’s state-run Global Times newspaper compared protesters to “terrorists like Islamic State”.
But the movement is shaking those at the top.
Lam has been forced to withdraw the extradition bill that sparked the protests. And last week the High Court ruled that her ban on protesters wearing masks is “unconstitutional”.
The movement in Hong Kong is demanding radical changes. They include the resignation of Lam, more democracy, the release of jailed protesters and an investigation into the cops.
Lam Chi Leung, a revolutionary socialist in Hong Kong, addressed a Marxism in Scotland event earlier this month.
He said “neoliberal policies, the exploitative behaviour of finance and the service of the government towards the rich” lie behind the protests.
He described how the movement has seen “broad participation of youths, widespread support from public opinion and the eruption of political strikes”.
And he said such strikes had not been seen in Hong Kong “in over 50 years”.
A number of the demonstrations since June have involved over a million people. Some have appealed to the Western powers to intervene.
Some oppose everyone in China, not just its ruling class. This can feed a kind of Hong Kong nationalism and racism towards Chinese people.
Lam Chi said there are “political confusions and contradictions” within the movement. “Socialists need to emphasise the need for self?organisation of workers and students,” he argued.
“Only by convincing the mainland Chinese people that Hong Kongers are willing to unite with them in struggle can we bring about genuine democracy and equality.”