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Editorial : Seek peaceful solution to the PolyU crisis

【明報專訊】Traffic at the Kowloon entrance to the Cross Harbour Tunnel at Hung Hom remains paralysed as black-clad protesters, armed with a large cache of weapons including petrol bombs, occupied the campus of the Polytechnic University (PolyU). The police laid heavy siege to the campus and called on the protesters to surrender. The black-clad protesters tried many times to break through but in vain. The standoff has gone on for more than two days. While the university management tried to mediate between the two sides, rallies in support of the PolyU students were also seen at Mong Kok and Jordan. In comparison with the uproar aroused by the clash at the CUHK's No. 2 bridge last week, aside from expressing deep worries over the PolyU standoff, more people are also rethinking whether the road blockade actions in the past few days have involved excessive violence. The situation of the PolyU is complicated and highly uncertain, making it hard to anticipate the direction of the coming developments. Even though the police are adopting the strategy of "laying siege without attacking", no one can guarantee that there would not be a sudden change for the worse. All parties must make the utmost efforts to strive for a peaceful solution to the incident and prevent the worst scenario of campus bloodshed from taking place.

The standoff between the police and black-clad protesters started at the edge of the PolyU on Sunday when the two sides exchanged teargas rounds and petrol bombs after some people in black threw bricks at citizens who volunteered to clear the road blockades nearby. Among the black-clad occupiers of the PolyU campus, there are the university's own students as well as a large number of outsiders, including even secondary school students. Unwilling to abandon the bridge, a base for their road blockade actions, the occupiers adopted the tactic of holding fast to the campus, turning it into a "war base" where they produced a large stash of weapons like petrol bombs. Similar to that of the CUHK, the PolyU campus was ravaged. The university's facilities were seriously vandalised and dangerous chemicals were stolen from its laboratories. The university management has already reported the theft to the police because that might endanger public safety.

The current tense situation faced by the PolyU shares something in common with that of the CUHK last week, but there are also critical differences between the two. And the key to defusing the crisis and sorting it out is for the university to distance itself from the violent outsiders. Yesterday (November 18), the PolyU president Teng Jin-Guang as well as several public figures released open statements and even tried to mediate the crisis. They called for settling the matter peacefully, so that those boxed inside the campus can leave peacefully and safely. However, it is obvious that different people see very different things regarding the definition of leaving "peacefully and safely".

President Teng of the PolyU said yesterday that the police had promised a temporary suspension of force if the black-clad protesters stopped their attacks. The police would allow the people trapped inside to leave peacefully. And the university had demanded the police arrange for the management staff of the university to accompany arrested teachers and students of the PolyU to the police station, thereby ensuring a fair treatment of those arrested. From the viewpoint of the police force, leaving peacefully and safely means a surrender by the protesters. It is a principle of the rule of law that people who have participated in the riot should face the legal consequences. However, in view of the atmosphere of society at this moment, obviously many people think otherwise.

Violence is no solution to problems. Society should never connive at it. But in order to curb violence, stop the unrest and restore order, mere "hardline measures" by the government and total reliance on law enforcement by the police are not enough. "Soft measures" that address the public opinion are also necessary. We still believe that setting up an independent commission of inquiry is an important key to defusing the crisis. At the same time, all parties of society must indeed disown violence as soon as possible. As the district council elections draw near, further escalation of violence and prolonged paralysis of traffic by blockade actions will only increase the risk of making it impossible to hold the elections as scheduled.

■明報社評2019.11.19:和平解決理大危機 避免浴血大學校園

紅隧九龍出入口癱瘓持續,黑衣人佔領理大校園,囤積大量汽油彈等武器,警方重重包圍,敦促投降自首,黑衣人多番試圖突圍皆不成功,雙方對峙超過兩天,校方居中斡旋,旺角佐敦一帶則有集會聲援理大學生。比起上周初中大「二號橋」衝突引來群情洶湧,當下社會看待理大對峙,除了憂心忡忡,亦多了人反思連日堵路暴力是否過了頭。理大情况複雜變數多,局勢走向難料,即使現在警方採取「圍而不攻」策略,也難保事態不會急轉直下,各方須盡最大努力,爭取和平解決事件,避免出現最壞情况浴血校園。

警方與理大黑衣人周日起在校園外圍對峙,催淚彈汽油彈互射,起因是有市民清理附近路障,遭黑衣人擲磚。佔領理工大學校園的黑衣人,既有校內生,也有大批校外人,當中甚至包括中學生。他們不願放棄天橋堵路據點,採取堅守策略,將校園化為「戰爭基地」,大量製造汽油彈等武器。就像中大一樣,理大校園滿目瘡痍,設施遭嚴重破壞,實驗室內的危險化學品被人盜去,由於危及公眾安全,校方已報警備案。

當前理大緊張情况,與上周中大有相似之處,亦有關鍵不同,化險為夷關鍵,在於盡快與校外暴力分子切割。過去一天,理大校長滕錦光和社會多位知名人士,都有公開喊話以至嘗試調停危機,爭取事件和平解決,讓校內人士和平、安全離開。不過何謂「和平安全」離開,不同人看法顯然不一。

昨天理大校長滕錦光表示,警方承諾若黑衣人不主動攻擊,警方會暫緩攻勢,容許校內人士和平離開,理大校方要求警方安排學校管理層陪同被捕理大師生到警署,確保被捕者得到公平對待。從警方角度,和平安全離開的意思就是投降自首,參與暴亂者需要承擔法律後果,這是法治原則,然而以目前社會氛圍,顯然不少人另有想法。

暴力不能解決問題,社會也不應包庇暴力。止暴制亂恢復秩序,政府不能單靠「硬功」,全仗警方執法,亦要有「軟功」回應民情,我們仍然深信,獨立調查委員會是化解危機的重要鑰匙。與此同時,社會各界亦確須盡快與暴力切割。區議會選舉在即,暴力不斷升級,堵路癱瘓交通持續,只會增加選舉無法如期舉行的風險。

■Glossary

for the worse : into a less positive condition

bloodshed : the killing or wounding of people

defuse sth : to stop a possibly dangerous or difficult situation from developing, especially by making people less angry or nervous

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