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HK Police: Protests Closer to Terrorism11/14 06:16

   HONG KONG (AP) -- Hong Kong police warned protesters on Thursday that they 
were moving "one step closer to terrorism" by sinking the city into chaos, as 
riot squads skirmished with militant students at major universities.

   Police spokesman Tse Chun-chung denied his department had been asked to 
enforce a possible curfew this weekend. A Chinese state media outlet later 
removed its tweet saying authorities were considering a weekend curfew that 
cited unidentified sources.

   "We are aware of the relevant report circulating online," Tse said at a 
daily briefing, referring to the report as "false." He said the authority to 
order a curfew lies with Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and 
"that's why police are not in a position to comment."

   "The force is certainly capable and determined to control Hong Kong's social 
unrest at the moment. We welcome any new measures that can help us to achieve 
the goal of restoring the public safety and order in Hong Kong," Tse added.

   In unusually harsh language, he said students were turning university 
campuses into "weapons factories" and a "hotbed" of crime.

   "Their acts are another step closer to terrorism," Tse said, warning of a 
major disaster if gasoline bombs stored on campuses were to catch fire.

   He said violence that broke out this week at Chinese University of Hong Kong 
is spreading to other campuses "like a cancer cell," mentioning specifically 
Hong Kong University and Baptist University.

   "It's time to wake up. No society can tolerate this much senseless 
violence," he said.

   With no end to the protests in sight, the beleaguered police force is 
appointing a group of prison guards as special constables.

   Up to 100 officers from the Correctional Services Department who are already 
familiar with anti-riot equipment will be given additional training and 
deployed mainly to guard government premises.

   "The ongoing riots over the past few months, with their massive scale, 
simultaneous occurrence in various districts and grave severity of violence, 
make it necessary to strengthen the support for the police's front-line 
officers," a statement from the police spokesman's office said.

   Residents endured a fourth day of traffic snarls and mass transit 
disruptions as protesters closed some main roads and rail networks.

   Police said protesters shot several arrows at them near Hong Kong 
Polytechnic University. No officers were injured, and six arrows were seized at 
the scene, police said.

   Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters 
have been unable to get to work or endured lengthy commutes.

   The government appealed for employers to show flexibility. "For staff who 
cannot report for duty on time on account of conditions in road traffic or 
public transport services, employers should give due consideration to the 
circumstances," a statement said.

   A business and high-end retail district in the center of the city was once 
again taken over by protesters at lunchtime, as it has been every day since 
Monday. Office workers watched from the sidewalks and overpasses as protesters 
littered the streets with bricks and other items to block traffic and police.

   At one point, a group of police swooped in and kicked the bricks to the curb 
along one major thoroughfare, but the standoff continued.

   The Education Bureau extended the suspension of classes for kindergarten to 
high school students until Monday. It ordered schools to remain open, though, 
to handle children whose parents need to send them to school.

   Protesters have hurled gasoline bombs and thrown objects off bridges onto 
roads below during clashes at campuses this week. The Chinese University of 
Hong Kong suspended classes for the rest of the year, and others asked students 
to switch to online learning.

   Students at Chinese University, site of some of the fiercest clashes where 
students hurled more than 400 firebombs at police on Tuesday, have barricaded 
themselves in the suburban campus.

   Early Thursday they used chainsaws to drop trees onto streets around the 
campus and prepared for a possible confrontation with police, who were not 
intervening.

   A major rail line connecting Kowloon to mainland China was closed for a 
second day and five major underground stations were shut along with seven light 
rail routes, the Transport Department announced.

   "Road-based transport services have been seriously affected this morning due 
to continued road blockages and damage to road facilities. In view of safety 
concerns and uncertain road conditions, buses can only provide limited 
services," the department said.

   One of the main cross-harbor tunnels connecting Hong Kong Island to Kowloon 
and the rest of the city was closed after protesters set some of the toll 
booths on fire Wednesday night.

   Traffic was also disrupted because protesters have destroyed at least 240 
traffic lights around the city.

   Anti-government protests have riven Hong Kong, and divided its people, for 
more than five months.

   The movement began over a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have 
allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Activists saw 
it as another sign of an erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms, which 
China promised would be maintained for 50 years under a "one nation, two 
systems" principle when the former British colony returned to Chinese control 
in 1997. 


(KR)

 
 
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