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The Hong Kong police is made out of people. Unless they have an incredibly accurate filtering process for new hires, at least some police officers will support the protests, and even those who don't probably have some pride that'd make standing aside for criminal gangs hard to swallow.

Of course the leadership could've arranged for the police force to retreat without informing them about the purpose. In that case, the rank-and-file officers are probably quite unhappy about that decision.

>The Hong Kong police is made out of people.

Or simply because protesters have made their lives very difficult for the past couple months and they're running out of patience and sympathy. Simple ingroup / outgroup dynamics.

The latter seems like the likely answer. If your unit is pulling back, then you have to decide on an individual level if you're going to follow the herd or go AWOL. Pretty easy groupthink situation.

That's exactly how leadership manipulated soldiers during the Tiananmen Square massacre [0]. They weren't given clear orders and were basically only told where to go and when. With that much force and tension anything can set it off.

But... As a counter argument, that could be exactly why law enforcement were pulled away this time. If they started cracking down on violent anti-protestors the peaceful protestors could have gotten caught in the mix and it could have escalated rapidly. I'm not defending Honk Kong leadership, but hopefully they're aware of the risk of concentrating armed forces amidst this tension.

If shots are fired it turns into a chain reaction.

[0] https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/06/02/317996805/...

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