A potential disaster for everyone involved could happen tomorrow in Hong Kong where police are preparing to enter a university and arrest anti-government protesters. The two sides have been at a standoff for almost two weeks after the demonstrators set up shop inside Polytechnic University. Hong Kong Free Press reports HKPD officers are done playing the waiting game even though no insurgents, for lack of a better term, may be inside.
“Considering that the school representatives already finished searching the campus, and informed police about the situation… our safety team together with some crime officers will enter the school tomorrow morning,” Ho said.
The “safety team” will consist of negotiators, bomb disposal officers, media liaison officers, social workers and clinical psychologists. It will also include members from the fire and ambulance services – but no riot police, [Tsim District Commander Ho Yun-sing] added.
PolyU staff will also accompany police officers to enter the campus on Thursday morning.
The objective of the operation is to handle the “dangerous items and offensive weapons” such as petrol bombs and corrosive liquids, as well as to gather evidence of the extensive damage, Ho said.
It should be pointed out PolyU officials do not believe a campus search is necessary and are hoping officers will end their blockade. They’ve done a canvass of PolyU and, depending on the outlet, believe the campus empty or almost empty of holdouts. Officers are, obviously, not convinced even though over a thousand demonstrators were arrested or detained after the conflict started on November 17th.
PolyU officials appear ready to move on so they can get campus life back to some semblance of normalcy. Via RTHK:
A vice president of the university, Miranda Lou, said a team comprising of more than 100 staff, counsellors and medical workers had checked all rooms, on all floors.
A similar search on Tuesday found only one person.
Lou said she hopes the police will stop surrounding the campus so that staff can begin repairs as soon as possible.
She said many of the school’s facilities, like classrooms and laboratories, are badly damaged, and said it is “heartbreaking” that many of the university’s R&D programmes have been affected.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen echoed Lou’s calls, saying there is no longer any need for officers to continue their siege, which has lasted for a week and a half.
The major concern is what might happen if HKPD encounters anyone who took part in the standoff. PoluY staff found a woman who refused to leave campus during a search on Tuesday and the university noted she didn’t appear to be in great mental or physical health. HKPD’s public perception has taken a major hit during the extradition bill protests this year for good reason based on the images and videos of civilians being beaten or detained regardless of their role in the demonstrations. It’s completely possible someone (police or civilian) might end up dead if HKPD decides to not use restraint during the campus search. The fact petrol bombs were used earlier in the standoff, as a way to keep HKPD at bay, should give everyone pause. Armed officers, even if they’re not riot police, won’t solve anything.
This is a potential disaster waiting to happen and it can be completely avoided. It’s time for HKPD to show more restraint, trust university staff, and leave PolyU. Nothing is solved by going through the school for hold-outs if none are inside. De-escalate the situation. Leave the campus be for a few days and only respond if PolyU finds anything.