Hong Kong police prepare to swoop on last protest site

Hong Kong police prepare to swoop on last protest site
Pro-democracy protesters fold a tent before police clear up the last "Occupy" protest site at Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong December 15, 2014.

HONG KONG - Police prepared Monday to clear Hong Kong's last remaining pro-democracy protest site where just a handful of demonstrators remain, after the main camp was demolished last week to bring an end to more than two months of rallies.

The site in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay is the smallest of the three camps which sprang up in late September and have paralysed sections of the city, as part of a student-led campaign for free leadership elections.

Activists occupied major traffic arteries in the wake of China's declaration in August that candidates for the city's chief executive elections in 2017 would first be vetted by a loyalist committee, a move campaigners said ensures a pro-Beijing stooge in the leadership role.

The major Admiralty camp which sprawled across a kilometre of multi-lane highway through the heart of the business district was cleared Thursday with more than 200 protesters arrested.

Police cleared the other major protest site in the working class commercial district of Mongkok - scene of some of the most violent clashes since the campaign began - in late November.

Hundreds gathered at the neat Causeway Bay camp on Sunday afternoon, many of them tourists and visitors wanting to capture the strings of paper umbrellas and artworks which decorate the site and have become symbols of the movement.

Some had commemorative T-shirts printed while others sang protest songs.

By Monday morning that number had dwindled to around 20 with some packing away tents and belongings. Protesters said their goodbyes, while stickers on the floor read "We'll be back".

"I am prepared to leave. I don't want to get arrested. I want to stay alive for the future confrontations," demonstrator Judy Kong told AFP.

While parts of Admiralty and Mongkok were cleared by bailiffs enforcing injunction orders brought by public transport companies who had been disrupted by the protests, Causeway Bay will be a direct police clearance, without prior bailiffs' action.

Police are set to carry out the clearance some time after 9:30 am (0130 GMT) and will set up a cordon around the area while the operation takes place, they said in a statement Sunday, which warned protesters to leave and clear their belongings.

"If the illegal road occupiers refuse to leave, police will take actions to disperse them and may effect arrest against those who attempt to obstruct police in the execution of duty," the statement said.

Roads around the site which have been closed since September will reopen after the action, police said.

Protesters have vowed to struggle on in their fight for fully fair elections through various means including refusal to pay rent and taxes.

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