Police officials in Hong Kong have reportedly threatened to use lethal ammunition if protesters do not leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University amid a standoff.
The New York Times reported Sunday that police superintendent Louis Lau said that live rounds could be utilized as a "necessary minimum force" against protesters.
“Coldblooded rioters can only imitate terror acts,” Lau added, referring to reports that a police officer had fired a live round at a vehicle charging police lines, according to the Times.
The escalation of law enforcement action against demonstrators comes amid accusations of police brutality leveled by protesters, who have caused major disruptions across the city for weeks.
A spokesperson for police said last week that the city was on the verge of a "total breakdown" due to acts of vandalism caused by rioters, including some who had reportedly thrown debris onto power lines and train tracks.
“Our society has been pushed to the brink of a total breakdown,” the spokesperson said Tuesday.
Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam has faced calls for her own resignation, and last week denounced protesters for blocking major commuting routes in the city.
“People from different sectors in society are holding fast to their positions and refusing to concede to violence or other radical actions,” she said. “I hereby express my gratitude to those who are still going to work and school today.”