Police are set to let traffic flow again at protest sites in a busy area of Hong Kong after clearing lanes at two of three sites in an orderly and violence-free operation.
The force is preparing to return Kowloon's busiest intersection to the general public, Chief Superintendent Stephen Hui said, after police reopened tramlines and traffic lanes on Hong Kong island on Tuesday.
Following a pledge to reopen the major east-west traffic artery with minimal force, officers with chainsaws and sledge hammers made quick work of the ramparts protestors built on Monday evening.
An onlooker surnamed Kung, who identified himself as a taxi driver, praised the police action, saying, "The protesters should consider society's common benefit and take a step back for Hong Kong.
During the occupation, traffic congestion took away 40 per cent of my income. I respect freedom, but I also need my freedom - to earn my living."
Hui said officers will ensure reopened roads remain unobstructed and that police would not tolerate attempts to replace obstacles.
Protesters taking part in an illegal sit-in for political reforms that go against the Basic Law remain around the Central Government Complex in Admiralty.
Hui appealed to protesters to allow lawmakers and government officials to enter the Legislative Council unmolested after a deal was reached to restart general meetings suspended due to the security threat posed by protesters blockading the complex.
Hui said police would monitor the situation in Mong Kok before taking action, declining to say when exactly police would move in to restore traffic flows.
The force has removed most of the barriers in the early morning hours when there are the fewest protesters.
Police have classified illegal gatherings at the Mong Kok intersection as high risk for confrontations between residents upset at the blockades and protesters manning barricades. A number of sporadic scuffles have already erupted over the past weeks.
Hui stressed that police operations would be announced ahead of any action to give protestors a chance to clear out.
The police action comes after weeks of mounting frustration by anti-occupation groups, including a group of irate transport workers who fanned out on Monday afternoon in a bid to take down the barriers and confront protestors.
Twenty-three men aged 16 to 54 were arrested in relation to the Monday operation.
A union representing Hong Kong tramway conductors also called on protesters, who have ignored numerous appeals from affected residents, to clear Causeway Bay after the sit-ins, now entering a third week, began to eat into wages.
Conductors say suspension of service has forced hourly wage earners to lose roughly HK$3,000 (S$493) over the past two weeks while others have had to take unpaid leave.