Hong Kong police are reportedly attempting to bring the over week-long dramatic events at Polytechnic University to a peaceful end after prior apocalyptic fire-engulfed scenes grabbed the world’s attention. “Independent” humanitarian teams are now going door to door throughout campus buildings attempting to contact the ‘radical’ holdouts.
Police have had the campus surrounded for days, and the prior 100 final holdout protesters of a week ago have now dwindled to some 30 student occupiers believed still in hiding on campus. Despite a potential 10-year prison sentence (laws against rioting, which are being applied to the protesters, carry heavy penalties), some 1,000 protesters have already walked off campus into the waiting arms of police.
However, police announced Monday those requiring medical treatment and who leave willingly would not be immediately arrested, though the official statement said authorities reserved the right to do so later.
Teams of psychologists, social workers, Red Cross medics, and trained negotiators are now going building to building, floor to floor, attempting to convince the final small group to exit of their own accord.
“A 50-strong group made up of PolyU management, security guards, councilors and Red Cross doctors divided into six teams and entered the campus at 9.30am to look for anyone who might still be in hiding,” the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.
“We will only enter the campus in an appropriate time, hoping not to provoke people inside,” HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam said of the continuing crisis.
“I hope the group doesn’t need to be deployed, if PolyU’s working team can successfully persuade people to leave the campus safely. The mission is still about persuading them to come out,” she added.
It remains a tense situation given the humanitarian search teams want to be seen as separate from police so as not to betray the students’ trust.
However, those going in are reportedly worried about explosive items and even the potential for booby traps.
According to the SCMP:
PolyU said in its latest statement that its six teams had searched four buildings by 1pm on Tuesday, but did not find any protesters. They found that many parts of the buildings had been vandalized and destroyed, and different kinds of dangerous items and petrol bombs had also been discovered inside.
There also reports that some among the estimated 30 protesters still scattered inside the buildings are suicidal and/or plan to resist to the very end.
HK leader Lam said in a radio broadcast she believes those still inside are “afraid of police” but that the mediation team will hopefully establish positive contact, leading to a peaceful removal of the final occupiers.