China's Soldiers Make Rare Appearance To Clean Up Hong Kong Streets
Police have fired tear gas while protesters threw petrol bombs and fired arrows in clashes outside a Hong Kong university hours after Chinese soldiers made a rare appearance on the city's streets.
China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in shorts and T-shirts appeared in streets outside their base on Saturday, helping residents clean up debris after anti-government protests blocked roads.
The presence of PLA troops on the streets, even to help clean up, could stoke further controversy over the Chinese-ruled territory's autonomous status.
A city spokesman said the Hong Kong government did not request assistance from the PLA but the military initiated the operation as a "voluntary community activity".
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than five months of demonstrations by protesters angry at perceived Communist Party meddling in the former British colony.
Beijing denies interfering and has blamed the unrest on foreign influences.
Saturday's clean-up followed some of the worst violence seen this year, after a police operation against protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The authorities have since largely stayed away from at least five university campuses that have been barricaded by thousands of students and activists who stockpiled petrol bombs, catapults, bows and arrows and other weapons.
Many protesters appeared to have left the campuses by late Saturday but Hong Kong's Cross-Harbour Tunnel was still blocked by protesters occupying Polytechnic University, where violence flared again on Saturday night.
"We don't want to attack the police, we just want to safeguard our campus," said Chan, a 20-year-old Polytechnic student.
"The reason why we want to safeguard our campus is we want citizens to join the mass strike and protect Hong Kong."
Earlier, hundreds of pro-China demonstrators gathered by the city's legislature and police headquarters, waving Chinese and Hong Kong flags.
Some held up posters reading "Police we stand with you", while others chanted "Support the police".
Pro-China protests have so far attracted much smaller numbers than those angry at Beijing.