HONG KONG - Hong Kong authorities Tuesday tore down barricades at a protest site in Mongkok, the scene of some of the more violent clashes to take place during nearly two months of pro-democracy sit-ins.
Dozens of bailiffs, backed by more than 100 police officers, stood guard as workers cleared makeshift barriers obstructing part of a busy shopping street in Mongkok, one of three main protest sites where thousands of demonstrators have camped out demanding free leadership elections.
Instructed by police to vacate the area, protesters, some wearing goggles, helmets and gas masks, responded with jeers, shouting "we want real universal suffrage" and raising a large yellow banner with the same slogan.
"I am not going to move. I will let them arrest me," Ng Pun-tuk, a 78-year-old protester wearing a helmet told AFP.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve democracy. I am prepared to go to jail," Ng, who was one of about 200 protesters at the site, declared.
"People at the scene, please leave as soon as possible in accordance with the court injunction," a police spokesman ordered the crowd - which included a scrum of journalists - over a loudspeaker before the clearance action.
The court injunction for Tuesday only covered the protest area on Argyle Street, but police are expected to execute a separate court injunction for a larger portion of the Mongkok protest area on busy Nathan Road Wednesday morning, reports said.
The pro-democracy protests, which have paralysed parts of the city, drew tens of thousands of people initially, but the crowds have shrunk as the movement has struggled to maintain momentum.
The Chinese government insists that candidates for a 2017 leadership vote in Hong Kong must be vetted by a loyalist committee - an arrangement the protesters say will ensure the election of a pro-Beijing stooge.
Last Tuesday, dozens of police and bailiffs stood guard as workers dismantled metal barricades blocking access to a skyscraper opposite government headquarters, on the edge of the sprawling main camp in the central district of Admiralty.