Hong Kong police have advanced into a major university campus where hundreds of protesters are trapped inside after police sealed off roads around the area.

Fiery explosions could be seen inside Hong Kong's Polytechnic University as riot officers stormed into the building before dawn on Monday after both sides refused to back down.

Police created a cordon around the university to prevent the anti-government protesters from escaping as they moved in.

Around 200 protesters are believed to be trapped inside the building. Most are believed to be students.

Protesters had set fire to the main entrance of the university earlier on to stop police from entering the building.

The demonstrators began retreating into the university near sunset, barricading entrances as police approached from other directions.


Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images

Police in riot gear move into the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, early Monday, Nov. 18, 2019.

University head appeals for calm

The university president, Jin-Guang Teng, said police would allow protesters to leave the campus, and that he would accompany them to the police station to ensure their cases "will be fairly processed."

In a recorded video message, Teng said he hopes demonstrators "will accept the proposed temporary suspension of force and leave the campus in a peaceful manner."

The chances protesters would accept the conditions seem unlikely given they would likely be arrested.

Police have declared the campus a "riot" scene. In Hong Kong "rioting" is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Some protesters began to stream out of the campus Monday morning after Teng's announcement, likely wanting to escape.

Police fired tear gas volleys at the protesters to drive them back, many of whom climbed over a fence and headed back inside the university.

Tension escalates

Tension between police and demonstrators escalated after a media liaison officer was struck in the leg with an arrow earlier that day.

Police repeatedly attempted to break into the university and, after protesters refused to give in to an ultimatum to come out and surrender, fired tear gas and water cannons at activists outside the campus just before midnight.

The pro-democracy protesters had barricaded themselves inside the university for days, retaliating with gasoline bombs and bows and arrows. They had also assembled an arsenal of petrol bombs in an attempt to resist police.

Police warned Sunday that if "rioters" did not stop using lethal weapons and ammunition, live bullets would be fired.

Earlier, protesters set fires on bridges leading to the university as they tried to stop police from advancing in on their campus. They also shut down access to a major road tunnel under Hong Kong's harbor for several days.


Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images

A protestor prepares to fire a bow and arrow during a confrontation with police at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, Sunday, November 17, 2019.

Some protesters remained outside the university to deter police advancement. Many in the crowd wore raincoats and carried umbrellas to shield themselves.

The protesters had held fort all day Sunday near an intersection outside the university campus as police fired tear gas and water cannons at them.

The protests were triggered months ago by a proposed law allowing for the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. Although the bill was ultimately dropped, the protests have expanded into a wider resistance movement demanding full democracy.

The legislation was seen by many in Hong Kong as an attempt by Beijing to erode the autonomy guaranteed when Britain handed the territory over to China in 1997.

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This article was originally published on Deutsche Welle. Read the original article here.

TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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