HONG KONG — Riot police surrounded a university campus with a handful of protesters remaining inside as Hong Kong’s showdowns took a dramatic turn after a day marked by clashes, mass arrests and hundreds of injuries.
Hong Kong’s police force said Tuesday it had apprehended 1,100 people over the past day alone, as months of violent clashes appeared to reach something of a climax. It said many of the detainees would be charged with rioting and possession of offensive weapons.
It was the largest number of arrests and injuries on a single day since the protests began five months ago.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong faced a fresh threat to its tenuous freedoms and autonomy, as the Chinese government admonished the city’s judiciary after a court overturned a ban on demonstrators’ wearing face masks.
The central government’s Hong Kong affairs office said that Monday’s judgment “blatantly challenged the authority” of China’s legislature and of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, creating “severe negative social and political impact.”
The pointed remarks were perhaps the starkest and most public instance of Beijing’s weighing in on a judicial decision in Hong Kong, which is guaranteed independent courts under the Basic Law, its mini-constitution.
The intervention underlined one of the central grievances of Hong Kong’s protest movement — perceived encroachment by the mainland government on the semiautonomous territory’s affairs.
In Hong Kong, concerns rose over the relative handful of protesters who have so far refused to leave the besieged campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, with authorities urging them to come out peacefully but refusing to rule out action to flush them out.
In a harbor-front promenade not far from the university, several hundred parents, teachers and sympathizers gathered for a peaceful, somber rally Tuesday evening, singing “Hallelujah” and waving cellphone lights in support of those remaining inside the university.
“We are thinking about the kids. We feel very strongly,” said Maggie Lau, 50, a retiree, adding that she felt upset and hurt by what has happened. “Who can help our Hong Kong? I don’t know. Hong Kong will disappear,” she said.
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, speaking to reporters in Geneva, expressed concern about increasing violence by young people “who are clearly very angry, with deep-seated grievances.”
But Colville, who speaks for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, also urged authorities to “address the humanitarian situation” of the remaining protesters holed up at the university.
In Washington, the U.S. Senate, in a unanimous vote, passed legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong, Reuters news agency reported. The “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” now goes to the House of Representatives, which earlier approved its own version of the measure.
After five months of street demonstrations calling for greater democracy and protesting what rights activists see as China’s steady encroachment on Hong Kong’s freedoms, the protests entered a new phase last week after a police officer shot an anti-government protester during a demonstration.