HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong residents endured a fourth day of traffic snarls and mass transit disruptions Thursday as protesters closed some major arteries and rail networks while police skirmished with militant students at major universities.
Life in this city of 7.5 million has been strained as thousands of commuters were unable to make it to work.
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,” the statement said.
Riot police fired tear gas during a standoff with students at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Protesters have hurled gasoline bombs and thrown objects off bridges 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 Molotov cocktails at police on Tuesday, have barricaded themselves in the suburban campus.
Early Thursday they used chain saws to drop trees onto streets around the campus and prepared for a possible confrontation with police, which were not intervening.
Anti-government protests have riven Hong Kong, and divided its people, for more than five months.
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.
Traffic was also disrupted because protesters have destroyed at least 240 traffic lights around the city.
The movement began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Activists saw it as another sign of an erosion in 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.