Turmoil hit Hong Kong again Wednesday as anti-government protesters resumed their new tactic of inflicting as much disruption as possible to transportation networks during the working week.

Scores of bus services were canceled and train services suspended after protesters damaged stations overnight and threw objects on the tracks. The lengthy delays caused dangerous overcrowding and chaotic scenes at the stations that remained open, requiring police to maintain order.

Traffic on many key roads ground to a halt as protesters threw up barricades and other obstacles from the early morning, effectively cutting off several suburbs from the rest of the city. Commuters reported waiting hours for any transport.

Authorities came under fire for endangering children’s safety by keeping schools open amid the disruptions. Many schools defied the order to operate and suspended classes regardless. The Hospital Authority meanwhile warned that medical services would be affected.

The latest upheavals came after similar disruptions, and violent unrest across the territory, on Monday and Tuesday. Hundreds have been arrested and scores injured after clashes with police since the start of the week. Two people were hospitalized in critical condition—one, a protester, shot by police, the other a man who was set on fire after arguing with a group of youths.

Protests broke out across the enclave—from outer suburbs to the central business district—but clashes were particularly intense at Hong Kong’s universities, with disturbances on several campuses. Hong Kong’s second-oldest university, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), spent much of Tuesday under palls of tear gas and smoke from fires as police and students battled through the day and night.

PHILIP FONG—AFP via Getty Images Protesters set up a fire during clashes with police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), in Hong Kong on November 12, 2019.

As night fell, students from other parts of Hong Kong came to reinforce protesters at CUHK and well-wishers donated medical supplies and food that were ferried overnight to the campus, where students have dug in.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s number two official, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung called for calm. “No matter your values or your aims, this violence, destruction and attacking of others—these unlawful actions—are not ways to achieve your goals,” he said at a press conference. “These are not solutions, and will not allow you to get what you want. The government reiterates that we have the determination, confidence and ability to stop the violence and chaos.”

Speaking at the same press conference, Secretary for Security John Lee appealed for Hong Kong’s democracy movement to stop harboring violent radicals. “If you see violence and do not address it, then to an extent, you are indulging this violence,” he said. “If this violence continues to be indulged, the consequences to Hong Kong society will be too dreadful to be imagined.”

Late Tuesday, the Liaison Office—Beijing’s representative in semi-autonomous Hong Kong—issued a statement expressing its “Strongest condemnation of the escalation of violent, destructive behavior” and called on the local administration to “use every necessary measure to stop the violence and chaos, restore order, arrest criminals, and seriously punish violent action.”

The statement came amid news that the Hong Kong government was preparing to transfer hardened prison officers, trained in handling prison riots, to the police in order to relieve the burden on a severely strained force. Local media also reported that hundreds of retired police officers were preparing to don their uniforms once again as violence escalates.

Hong Kong’s anti-government rebellion is now in its fifth month and represents the most serious challenge in decades to Beijing. Protesters are demanding greater political freedom for the enclave, with many advocating secession from China, to which Hong Kong was retroceded in 1997 after 156 years as a British colony.

With reporting by Aria Chen and Hillary Leung/Hong Kong

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