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A look at Hong Kong protesters’ latest battleground: university campuses

WATCH: U of C promising support for students after recommending they leave Hong Kong

More than five months on, Hong Kong is still in the grips of a political crisis.

Protests began in early June when the local government attempted to amend its extradition laws, which would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. The proposed legislation was largely criticized as a pro-Beijing move indicative of the Chinese government’s growing influence over Hong Kong and a risk to the region’s independence.

READ MORE: ‘Fight for freedom’ — Activist urges world leaders to speak up for Hong Kong

While the demonstrations started peacefully, resistance quickly escalated, even after the bill was withdrawn. The protests now centre on demands for broader democratic reforms and an independent investigation into police treatment of protesters.

While there have been ebbs and flows in the size of the demonstrations, the movement hasn’t simmered down.

Violence has grown, both among police seeking to control the situation and protesters unhappy with the use of force. Protesters have endured tear gas, rubber bullets and possible gang-related attacks and are now grappling with the death of a student who fell off a parking garage during a clash with police.

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Hong Kong police arrest protesters attempting to leave besieged university campus
Hong Kong police arrest protesters attempting to leave besieged university campus

The demonstrations have taken over the city’s financial district, key airport, major roadways and subway system. Now, it’s turned to university campuses.

Protesters have staged a week-long standoff, occupying several campuses in Hong Kong.

Polytechnic University in Kowloon has become the main battleground.

Protesters clash with police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Protesters clash with police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A protester hides behind a shield during clashes with police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)
A protester hides behind a shield during clashes with police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)
Members of the media run away from fire caused by Molotov cocktails during clashes between protesters and police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)
Members of the media run away from fire caused by Molotov cocktails during clashes between protesters and police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

Protesters have hunkered down at the university and fortified the campus to keep police from getting in. In the process, they have blocked one of the city’s major arteries.

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The standoff took a new turn on Monday when Hong Kong police moved in. They used tear gas, water cannons and armoured vehicles against protesters barricaded in at the university.

Hong Kong police threaten to use live bullets
Hong Kong police threaten to use live bullets

Black-clad protesters responded with petrol bombs and bricks.

It’s considered the most intense violence and destruction the anti-government demonstrations have seen in some time.

A protester takes cover under an umbrella during clashes with police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)
A protester takes cover under an umbrella during clashes with police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)
Anti-government protesters throw Molotov cocktails towards police vehicles during clashes, outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China, on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)
Anti-government protesters throw Molotov cocktails towards police vehicles during clashes, outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China, on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)
A police vehicle is hit by a Molotov cocktail as anti-government protesters clash with police, outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China, on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)
A police vehicle is hit by a Molotov cocktail as anti-government protesters clash with police, outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China, on Nov. 17, 2019. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

Protesters who have tried to flee the campus and break police lines have been met with rubber bullets and walls of tear gas.

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Police have threatened the use of live rounds.

Since the protests began in June, police say 4,491 people, aged from 11 to 83, have been arrested. Police arrested 154 people over the weekend.

In a last-ditch attempt to avoid arrest and stop riot police from encroaching on the campus, protesters set fire to the entrance of the university.

A fire set by protesters burns at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A fire set by protesters burns at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Protesters attempt to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Protesters attempt to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A protester attempts to extinguish a fire at the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A protester attempts to extinguish a fire at the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

China’s government has defended efforts by Hong Kong police, saying the protests are “no longer a simple, peaceful demonstration” and that they have “affected social order.”

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Police are calling on protesters still barricaded inside to surrender and face justice.

Police detain protesters who attempt to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)
Police detain protesters who attempt to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)
A riot police officer points a gun at protesters attempting to escape the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
A riot police officer points a gun at protesters attempting to escape the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Riot police are seen as protesters attempt to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)
Riot police are seen as protesters attempt to leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) during clashes with police in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)
Anti-government demonstrators stand amid tear gas during clashes with police near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)
Anti-government demonstrators stand amid tear gas during clashes with police near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 18, 2019. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)
Protesters take cover with umbrellas from tear gas canisters in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Protesters take cover with umbrellas from tear gas canisters in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters

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