Hong Kong police threatened on Monday to fire live bullets if “rioters” did not stop using lethal weapons in the latest flare up in anti-government protests that have convulsed the Chinese-ruled city for five months.
The police statement followed fresh clashes outside a university in the center of Hong Kong where protesters were hunkered down behind makeshift shields and hurled petrol bombs at police in a standoff blocking a vital tunnel link.
Police had said on Sunday one officer had been treated in hospital after being hit in the leg by an arrow and another had his visor struck by a metal ball, although he was not hurt.
The violence in the Asian financial hub has posed the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. Xi has said he is confident Hong Kong’s government can resolve the crisis.
In Monday’s statement, police warned people who they described as rioters to stop using lethal weapons to attack officers and to halt other acts of violence, saying office would respond with force and possibly live bullets if necessary.
Police have used live rounds in a few isolated incidents in the past.
Demonstrators, angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the former British colony which has had autonomous status since returning to Chinese rule in 1997, have said they are responding to excessive use of force by police.
“The protesters have been reacting to the police,” said Joris, 23, a civil engineer who like others did not give his full name. “We haven’t fought back as much as we could. I would be prepared for jail. We are fighting for Hong Kong.”