HONG KONG - Hundreds of protesters braced for a police swoop on Hong Kong's main pro-democracy site early Thursday, to end more than two months of rallies calling for free leadership elections.
Bailiffs are set to move into the Admiralty protest camp, which sprawls across a multi-lane highway through the heart of the city's business district, from 9am to clear parts covered by a court injunction.
Police will then sweep away the rest of the site - an entrenched camp of tents, supply stations and art installations - to open up a kilometre-long stretch of road in what they say is a bid to restore public order.
While some demonstrators have vowed to stay and face arrest, others were packing up their tents Thursday morning ahead of the police swoop, which is expected at 11am.
"I'll probably leave just before the action because my job would be difficult if my name was recorded by police," said a 29-year-old surnamed Chow who works for a civil society group.
"I'm still young and I have a lot of opportunities - I don't want to waste them by being arrested," added a 23-year-old welfare worker who gave her name as Dubi.
Authorities have said they will take "resolute action" against those who resist the clearance, which they say is being carried out to open roads and restore public order.
Student protest leaders have encouraged demonstrators to stay at the site to face police but have urged non-violence. They will be joined by more than 20 pro-democracy lawmakers who will hold a sit-in at the site.
There are fears that radical splinter groups will dig in for a final stand, following violent clashes outside government headquarters at the end of last month.
The rallies erupted after China's communist authorities insisted candidates in the 2017 leadership election will be vetted by a loyalist committee. Protesters say this will ensure the election of a pro-Beijing stooge.
At their height, the protests saw tens of thousands take to the street, but public support has waned in recent weeks. However, thousands gathered on Wednesday night for one final mass rally at the site, chanting "We want true universal suffrage; we will fight to the end."
Student leaders and lawmakers addressed an emotional crowd while many took photos of the site before it is dismantled.