Protests have paralyzed Hong Kong for a third consecutive day as clashes with police turned increasingly violent, having forced an exodus of mainland Chinese and other students from the city that Chinese officials said was “slipping into the abyss of terrorism.”
The Chinese University of Hong Kong remained barricaded Wednesday as students and other demonstrators readied for another possible battle with police. Gasoline bombs and fires had lit up parts of the campus Tuesday night, as police battled back with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The former British colony was “slipping into the abyss of terrorism,” the Chinese government's liaison office in Hong Kong said as anti-government demonstrators continued to cripple train services, barricade streets and occupy universities.
Marine police evacuated many of the university’s mainland Chinese students by boat. Others packed onto a high-speed train out of the city, one Chinese finance student, who asked not to be named, told the Financial Times.
Exchange students from Europe and America were also told to pack up and leave the university over concerns for their safety as anti-government unrest gripped the city for the fifth month.
“Everything is very unpredictable right now, and I just have to take things not only day by day, but hour by hour,” American student Maya Boehm told the South China Morning Post. “It breaks my heart to have to leave like this.”
Student protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and vandalized trains at the Chinese University on Wednesday. Other students on campus built a catapult and wielded bows and arrows. At the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, students prepared batches of Molotov cocktails.
The escalation of violence comes a day after police warned that the city was on “the brink of a total collapse.” Over the course of Tuesday’s clashes, police said officers fired 1,567 tear gas canisters, 1,312 rubber bullets, and 380 beanbag rounds. A total of 142 people were arrested and 10 people were taken to hospitals with injuries.
On Monday, a police officer drew his gun during a struggle with protesters, shooting one in the abdomen. In another neighborhood, a 57-year-old man who was defending China was set on fire after an apparent argument.
The man set on fire remained in critical condition Wednesday, and the protester was in serious condition, the Hospital Authority said.
The Chinese government's liaison office called the setting of a man on fire an act of "flagrant terrorism."
Beijing has begun using more extreme language to describe the protesters, now calling them “murderers” and tying them more explicitly to terrorism. It’s unclear whether this label will result in harsher enforcement measures and prosecution of demonstrators.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said members of the U.S. Senate should stop trying to promote bills on human rights or democracy in Hong Kong that inflame protests.
"I want to reiterate that Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong,” he said at a daily briefing. “Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs and cannot be interfered by any external forces.”
In Washington, the U.S. government said it is watching the situation with "grave concern."
"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," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Fox News' Travis Fedschun and the Associated Press contributed to this report.