Transport associations in Hong Kong say they will seek arrest warrants against protesters on Friday, as they seek to put teeth into a High Court order to clear roads as the protesters continued to defy decrees for a third day.
The High Court warned that ongoing and illegal occupations verged on civil disorder and were posing a danger to lives, safety, health and property as well being out of proportion to freedoms guaranteed under the law.
Justice Jeremy Poon released his rationale on Thursday for his Monday order for occupation sit-ins to move off key roads, blasting protesters for their disregard of the interests of fellow citizens in monopolizing public highways.
Poon wrote that the conduct at sit-in sites far exceeded the bounds of reasonable demonstration and that the gatherings were leading to increasingly violent confrontations between protesters and police, who characterized the situation as a near-riot.
Poon said the obstruction of roads has deterred potential customers from using taxis, resulting in substantial losses to taxi drivers and managers.
In anticipation of opposition plans to challenge the injunction, Poon wrote that "the protesters' conduct was disproportionate, and any reliance on the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly will not likely succeed."
Poon added that he fully expected the order to be obeyed even if the protesters disagree with it, adding that they could pursue the matter in court if they wished to resolve the controversy peacefully and within the law.
Poon's order to clear roads in Mong Kok, as well as a separate injunction to clear emergency access routes around CITIC Tower in the city's Admiralty district, is set to expire on Friday and continues to be largely ignored by protesters, who refuse to abandon their ramparts.
Chief Justice Rimsky Yuen said the continued defiance of court orders would encourage others to disregard judicial decrees, representing a direct threat to the rule of law in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Taxi Association is planning to seek a permanent injunction on Friday as well as police assistance in enforcing the court's orders.
The China Australia Legal Exchange Foundation's executive council chairman, Lawrence Ma, said the failure by plaintiffs to get protesters to comply with the court orders left the taxi association no choice but to return to the court and ask for arrest warrants.
Ma said enforcement could be problematic, since the association would have to identify individuals who frequently manned barricades in order to obtain arrest warrants; or it could seek a blanket arrest warrant for any persons unlawfully occupying public highways. That would be an extraordinary measure by the courts, he said.