End the siege and start the healing

Editorial | Mary Ma 28 Nov 2019

Police will enter Hong Kong Polytechnic University today along with university staff. Although the force stopped short of saying if it will end the long siege of the Hung Hom campus, it is more likely than not that it will.

If that happens it will be welcome news as the longer the siege drags on, the greater the uncertainty.

Since the district council elections were successfully held on Sunday, a much greater degree of stability has been restored to society. For the first time in many weekends, the public was able to dine out without fear of being suddenly caught up in fire bombs and tear gas. So every effort must be made to maintain the peace.

The devastating defeat of pro-Beijing candidates in the election has dealt the authorities a hard blow. Nonetheless, it allowed people's anger that had grown over the months to be released via peaceful means.

The extremely high turnout rate was a de-facto eruption of anger, helping to release some steam from the pressure cooker.

It would be correct for police to end the siege, and it would be an important step toward a sustained peace.

Since the fiery clashes with protesters at the PolyU over a week ago, police have formed a formidable ring of security around the campus, cutting it off from the rest of the community. More than 1,000 people have since come out, with hundreds being arrested. Those younger than 18 had to give police their personal particulars before they could go home.

Still, some - with estimates ranging from one dozen to a few dozen - held on.

Should police be blamed for not taking for granted the words of others when told by two university vice presidents that only one protester had been found during their searches on Tuesday and Wednesday?

That is a matter of opinion, with a clear split across the political spectrum.

But it is a positive development that a special arrangement has been agreed for police to enter the Hung Hom campus - along with a special team set up by the university - to deal with dangerous substances and collect evidence.

It goes without saying that a key mission of police is to check whether or not there are still people hiding out there. It is imperative that Police Commissioner Chris Tang Ping-keung sees the site through the eyes of his own men, and not just going by the words of others.

By all means, the force may argue it is only fair for it to carry out its own search - especially to those arrested when they left earlier. We will soon know if they will find anyone still holed up on the campus. I am certain that some officers were angry with the previous searches and insisted on conducting their own blanket search of the site.

The city should start working together to eliminate unstable factors one by one, and ending the police siege can be the beginning of such a process.

Meanwhile, is it wise to pull funding for the universities?

I believe it is clear that there is a feeling of vengeance in that move on the part of the administration.

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