Possibly it was due to the mediators that worse could be prevented in Hong Kong. The deputies, lawyers and church people had spent at the Polytechnic University urging the encircled activists to leave the campus peacefully. More than 500 of the university squatters eventually escorted outside. Around 200 of them were students under the age of 18. The mediators had pledged to the police the promise that minors would not be arrested, but should go home.
Nevertheless, it took a long time to gain the confidence of the young activists. “Many feared it could be a trap for the police,” said Ip Kin-yuen MP and chairwoman of the Teachers’ Union. He stood in the evening together with other mediators in front of the locked university and gave information. Despite the commitment of the police, several minors initially decided to stay on campus, which they had occupied for days. Also because they had older friends there for whom the offer of free escort did not apply.
In the late evening, only a hard core of radical activists remained on the site. “Some are very determined. They say they want to fight to the end, “said Ip Kin-yuen, parliamentarian. “We are very concerned about the situation”. No one could say exactly how many were left. The estimates ranged from several dozen to 200. The terrain is extensive. It also seemed unthinkable that some violent criminals hid to ambush the police.
Hong Kong police had described the actions of the university squatters on Monday as “murderous” and close to terrorism
The siege tactics of the police probably played their part in the fact that ultimately decided so many squatters to the task. Their supplies were running low, and the police made sure that they did not get access to the food and water donations from the population. In the end, hunger, thirst, and the constant fear of police storming the campus drove them out of the building. Added to this was the despair over failed escape attempts.
“Yesterday we were worried, we were afraid of bloodshed”, said law professor Eric Cheung, who was also among the mediators. “But the agreements with the police could deescalate the situation”. After all, the police had described the actions of the university squatters on Monday as “murderous” and close to terrorism.
What you saw on Western Media coverage is #HongKong police charging out of ambulance to fire warning shots over #HongKongProtesters. What you don’t see is what happened before…👇🏼#HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/gp9ZdlnlBJ
— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) November 19, 2019
The Hong Kong government is under the pressure to crack down on activists, as the central government demands. Chief Executive Carrie Lam indirectly declared the eviction of the Polytechnic University to be the proof that Hong Kong could do without Beijing aid, that is without the military. “If we are unable to conduct an operation to arrest these rebels, then we could not demonstrate that we have the competence to handle the situation,” she said at a press conference.