Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam says she hopes a stand-off between police and hold-out anti-government protesters can be resolved with police told to handle the process humanely.
A last group of about 100 defiant protesters remain inside Polytechnic University following two days of clashes with police surrounding the campus. More than 200 people have been injured.
Lam spoke at a news conference on Tuesday shortly after Hong Kong's new police chief urged the support of all citizens to end five months of unrest, triggered by fears Beijing is stifling the city's autonomy and freedoms.
She said her government was very much on the "reactive side" but did not rule out further violence even as she urged peace.
"If the protesters are coming out in a peaceful manner ... then there is no situation when that sort of violence would happen," she said.
But if the situation changed, police would have to take "necessary action", she said, adding she had been shocked that campuses had been turned into "weapons factories".
Lam said 600 protesters had left the campus, including 200 younger than 18.
The university is the last of five protesters occupied as bases from which to disrupt the city.
In the process, they have blocked the city's central cross harbour tunnel and main roads and forced the closure of businesses including shopping centres.
Hundreds of protesters fled from the university or surrendered overnight amid running battles on surrounding streets as police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets and activists lobbed petrol bombs and bricks.
At one stage, dozens of mask-wearing individuals staged a dramatic escape from the campus by shimmying down plastic hosing from a bridge and fleeing on waiting motorbikes as police fired projectiles.
Police allowed two prominent figures onto campus late on Monday to mediate but many protesters refused to leave even with food running out.
They say they fear more bloodshed with no resolution in sight to a stand-off featuring some of the most intense violence since Hong Kong's return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Protesters were initially angered by a now-shelved bill that could have sent people to mainland China for trial but has since broadened into calls for full democracy and an end to what many see as meddling by Beijing.
China says it is committed to the "one country, two systems" formula granting Hong Kong autonomy and has accused foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, of inciting trouble.
The city's police deny accusations of brutality and say they have shown restraint.
Newly appointed commissioner, Chris Tang, meanwhile, warned of an "institutional mismatch" that his 30,000-strong force was having to contend with.
"There is a massive scale of breaking of law in Hong Kong and there is a certain sector of the community that also condones that illegal activity," he said.
He said "fake news" was also undermining the reputation of the force that had long been one of Asia's finest.
Australian Associated Press