Hong Kong was hit by transport chaos and clashes between students and police, while office workers blocked roads in the heart of the city’s financial district for a second consecutive day.
A police shooting of a protester on Monday morning unleashed a wave of clashes across the Chinese territory that continued overnight, with police firing tear gas at demonstrators at the City University of Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The MTR, the city’s metro network, closed multiple stations and reduced the frequency of trains, forcing some commuters to walk along rail tracks to the next stop. Many schools were also closed across the city.
The latest disruption came as the US appealed for calm on both sides following a steep escalation of violence since pro-democracy protests began in June. Demonstrators clashed with police on Monday and a man was set alight by people following scuffles with protesters. A police officer was also suspended after video footage appeared to show him riding his motorbike into a number of protesters.
A total of 128 people were hospitalised. The shot protester and the man who was set alight were both in a critical condition, according to the Hospital Authority.
Morgan Ortagus, a US State Department spokeswoman, said Washington was watching the situation with “grave concern”, adding that the polarisation “underscored” the need for dialogue between the government, protesters and other members of the public.
“We condemn violence on all sides, extend our sympathies to victims of violence regardless of their political inclinations, and call for all parties — police and protesters — to exercise restraint,” Ms Ortagus said.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, called protesters “extremely selfish” for paralysing transport networks in her weekly press conference on Tuesday. A day earlier, she had branded the demonstrators “enemies of the people”, saying they would never achieve their aims through violence.
Ms Lam confirmed the city planned to hold crucial local elections on November 24, the first electoral test of public opinion since the anti-government protests began in June, despite the growing violence.
“On the whole, we will try our very best to ensure the election will continue in a safe and orderly manner,” Ms Lam said in her press conference, adding she would consider advice from the election committee.
A record number of pro-democracy candidates are standing and there has been an increase in voter registrations. However, there have been at least eight attacks on pro-democracy political figures and candidates in recent months. Last week, Junius Ho, an outspoken pro-establishment lawmaker, was stabbed while campaigning for a colleague.
A newspaper advertisement signed by more than 100 public figures, including the former finance secretary, called on the government to ensure the elections go ahead to prevent any further divisions in society.