HK police vow minimum force to remove road barriers

HK police vow minimum force to remove road barriers

Hong Kong police said on Monday they are ready to remove barricades and restore traffic to two main roads blockaded by protesters for more than two weeks.

Police Chief Superintendent Steve Hui Chun-tak said at a news conference that minimal force will be used to take down illegal obstacles in an aim to resume traffic and tram services.

Hui emphasised the impending operation was not to remove protesters but warned members of the public not to interfere with the police in the execution of their duties.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said authorities would avoid direct clashes with protesters as they work to dismantle unmanned road barricades on Hong Kong Island and the Mongkok neighborhood. Leung added that the police is one of the most outstanding and disciplined police force in the world.

In an early morning operation on Monday, police recovered public barriers, dismantled 27 roadblocks and cleared up seven minor roads to traffic.

Mobile cranes surrounded by hundreds of officers removed barriers at protest sites in Mongkok while protesters continued their illegal sit-in, which has entered its third week.

Protesters have since created new barricades made up of bamboo spikes using recycled pallets, bamboo poles and stolen litter bins after police removed metal barriers in place since the unrest broke out in late September.

Protesters also added cement to reinforce the new barriers in anticipation of the police operation.

Anti-occupation groups angry over the prolonged sit-ins said the protests were costing drivers' jobs and affecting the livelihood of countless others.

On Sunday, a thin blue line of officers attempted to separate dozens of occupation protesters from an angry mob of at least 1,000 while a mobile crane, allegedly utilized by an anti-occupation group, began clearing roadblocks and protester tents.

After initial clashes, police were able to keep the two sides separated as nearby office workers looked on.

Three men were arrested for common assault and possession of weapons in Sunday's fracas.

After the arrests, a convoy of taxis and cement trucks from anti-occupy groups drove up to the blockades, blasting their horns and calling for roads to be reopened. Police turned them away.

The government has offered to relocate protest zones to nearby parks but protest leaders have yet to take up the offer. It declined to reopen a forecourt at the government headquarters, where students sparked the unrest, as a site for protests after protest leaders offered to retreat from main roads in the city.

Asia Pacific Law Association President Phyllis Kwong said she will file an injunction barring protest leaders from occupied roads.

She added that the association is helping to plan lawsuits seeking to recover losses from transportation providers who say they have lost HK$2 billion (S$328 million) due to road disruptions.

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