The standoff at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) took a dramatic turn on Tuesday as a number of prominent social figures appeared at the scene late in the night and sought to mediate between the police and the besieged protesters.
With some cajoling and assurances, the intermediaries successfully persuaded most of the protesters inside the PolyU to turn themselves in, helping prevent further bloodshed and destruction of the facilities on the campus.
Among all the “mediators” who showed up that night, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, the former Legislative Council president, grabbed most of the spotlight.
Tsang’s star-studded “rescue team”, which was made up of members from across the local political spectrum and included figures such as University of Hong Kong lecturer in law Eric Cheung Tat-ming, former Independent Police Complaints Council member Edwin Cheng Shing-lung and Julian Law Wing-chung, who once served as political assistant to former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, has certainly become a key talking point among the local political circles.
According to multiple sources, late in the night on Monday there were three teams of people who were rushing to the rescue of the students and protesters trapped inside the PolyU.
The first team, which mainly comprised secondary school principals, was led by Ip Kin-yuen, a lawmaker who represents the education sector in the Legco functional constituency.
The second team was led by Lam Tai-fai, the incumbent chairman of the Council of PolyU.
However, what surprised the media most was undoubtedly the sudden appearance of Jasper Tsang and his teammates.
It is understood that Ip, Lam and Jasper Tsang had not been in touch with one another beforehand, and none of the three knew that the others would also be coming until they arrived at the PolyU.
As a person who is familiar with the matter has revealed, Jasper Tsang had been deeply concerned recently about the deteriorating situation in the city.
Last week, Tsang, according to the source, approached a number of prominent figures from different sectors and of different political opinions, including a pro-establishment political heavyweight, and asked them to join in a “brainstorming session” on Monday night in an attempt to explore a way to resolve the current social crisis.
It is understood that during their brainstorming session, the participants learned that the situation at the PolyU was quickly deteriorating.
And it is also said that an individual who was attending the brainstorming meeting got news that some of the students trapped in the PolyU had no intention of fighting the riot police to the last man, and that some students were actually desperate to leave the campus.
It is against such backdrop that Jasper Tsang, on the advice of some of those at the meeting, decided to set out for the PolyU in person without delay in order to defuse the crisis.
Meanwhile, a member on his “rescue team” immediately rang up the top management of the police and asked them to order frontline officers to allow Jasper Tsang and others to enter the besieged campus.
Now, as we can see, the efforts of Jasper Tsang and others have paid off. The team succeeded in persuading hundreds of protesters to leave the campus voluntarily, paving way for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
A figure in the political circles has pointed out that the siege of the PolyU could have ended in bloodshed had it not been for Jasper Tsang’s mediation efforts.
The source went on to say that after the successful PolyU rescue, the public may start to have high hopes on Jasper Tsang and his “team of dedicated persons”, and turn to them in the event of any major deadlock in the future to pull Hong Kong back from the brink.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 20
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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