Hong Kong clears part of protest site

HONG KONG - Hong Kong on Tuesday started to clear part of a protest camp in the heart of the city that has been occupied by pro-democracy demonstrators for nearly two months, leaving most of the main protest site intact.

About 30 court bailiffs arrived at the 33-storey Citic Tower in Admiralty, next to government buildings, to enforce an injunction against street barricades after a request from the building's owners, witnesses said.

Authorities stood by as workers used cutters to remove barricades. Police and said the building's owners had hired workers to carry out the clearance.

"We will proceed on the principle of peace and non-violence," said Joshua Wong, head of Scholarism, one of two student groups leading the protests.

"We are not looking for an argument with the police. If they clear the road outside the car park we will accept that. If they clear other areas it will be very disappointing."

Some protesters packed up pillows, blankets and other belongings from inside their tents and moved to another part of the demonstration zone.

"Our plan is to do nothing and just observe," said protester Gary Yeung, 25. "The pre-agreed area is fine. Anything beyond that is not. It's a peaceful protest so we won't fight back."

The area near Citic Tower, headquarters of CITIC Pacific Ltd., has been surrounded by metal barricades, disrupting commuters heading to the Central business district nearby.

Scores of colorful tents dot the area that is home to some of the world's most expensive real estate.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gives the city more autonomy and freedom than the mainland with the goal of universal suffrage.

The protesters are demanding open nominations in the city's next election for chief executive in 2017. Beijing has said it will allow a vote in 2017, but only between pre-screened candidates.

A similar injunction has been issued for a street in the gritty district of Mong Kok, another protest site across the harbour from Admiralty that has seen some of the most violent clashes over the past seven weeks. It was not clear when authorities would enforce that order.