Three universities have reported to police that chemicals were stolen from their campuses which have become war zones in the past week as clashes between students and officers escalated. Chinese University (CUHK), Polytechnic University (PolyU) and City University (CityU) – have reported to police that toxic and dangerous chemicals were stolen from their laboratories.

CUHK made a police report on Sunday (Nov 17) after the school discovered flammable materials at various locations on its campus. The new chief of the Police Public Relations Branch, Kenneth Kwok Ka-chuen, made his first appearance in a press conference on Monday (Nov 18) and said police were investigating the loss of the chemicals.

“Among the stolen chemicals were highly volatile explosives. We must warn that the university campus has become a powder keg where danger is far beyond what we can estimate,” Kwok said.

“A university is supposed to be a breeding ground for young talents, but it has unfortunately become a battlefield for criminal and rioters. The PolyU campus in Hung Hom has been turned into a weapon factory where arsenal of weapons were made and stored,” he said.

Polytechnic University in Hung Hom became a fiery battlefield on Monday, a day when police made a record high of at least 1,000 arrests, according to an insider.

A source at PolyU has revealed how protesters barricaded inside the campus have made homemade napalm to attack police lines.

Protesters have been seen mixing petrol with easily acquired household items that can be used to create a form of napalm — a gel-like substance that sticks to what it hits and burns more fiercely than petrol alone.

Hundreds of glass bottles filled with the substance have been strategically positioned across campus, ready to be used should police finally enter inside.

A radical holds a petrol bomb during clashes with police outside PolyU on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Meanwhile, more than 8,000 petrol bombs ready for use on Hong Kong’s streets have been found at Chinese University. The petrol bombs had been found on the Sha Tin campus, which was occupied by radicals during four days of clashes with police last week.

The firebombs discovery was revealed as Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned a “weapons factory”, holding 2,000 bottles of flammable liquid, uncovered on a university campus.

“I know thousands of unused petrol bombs had been found in a university, with dangerous chemicals being stolen from laboratories,” she said.

A carriage with chemical solutions for petrol bombs is left at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hung Hom.

On a bridge at Chinese University in Sha Tin, bags and boxes of petrol bombs were placed on the ground, ready to be deployed at any moment. On a footbridge at the campus where protesters had set up an inspection point, materials for petrol bombs and dozens of finished versions of the explosive were scattered on the ground.

The latest escalation in violence between protesters and police has pushed protesters to experiment with newer and more deadly makeshift weaponry, including bows and flaming arrows and catapults. Protesters have begun using bows and arrows, taken from the school’s sporting equipment. A police officer was shot through the leg with an arrow last week.

At both Chinese University and the Polytechnic University, protesters built large catapults to aid them in flinging petrol bombs and bricks over their lines at police.

Trash and liquid containers are strewn all over PolyU.

Hong Kong’s public safety is in danger

Experts warn that toxic compounds could be hazardous to both public and police if in the wrong hands. It could pose a threat to public safety.

The most poisonous would be zinc cyanide and sodium arsenite, according to Kwong Si-san, a former lecturer from CUHK. Kwong said the two compounds were basically a variation of cyanide and arsenite, often stored in small amounts in laboratories and used as catalysts in chemical reactions.

They can be deadly if they enter a person’s eye or mouth. Swallowing as little as tens of milligrams of cyanide could lead to death. An intake of a little more than 230mg of arsenite could also prove fatal though it would take longer for the substance to take effect, with symptoms such as irregular heart rate and severe diarrhoea.

A law enforcement expert – specially trained to handle and dispose of dangerous materials – said that the concentrated acid could be used as corrosive bombs.

“The powder can be absorbed through the skin and cause difficulties in breathing or irritation. A sufficient amount could kill,” he said, expressing concern for officers on the front line.

“All these chemicals are corrosive, flammable and toxic. The riot control and protective gear of officers do not guard against such chemicals.”