Police to clear main Hong Kong protest site on Thursday

Police to clear main Hong Kong protest site on Thursday

HONG KONG - Police will clear Hong Kong's main pro-democracy protest camp Thursday and urged demonstrators not to resist, after more than two months of rallies for free leadership elections brought parts of the city to a standstill.

But some protesters have said they are determined to stand their ground until their demands are met, as they have failed so far to wring any concessions out of the authorities in Hong Kong or Beijing, which have branded the demonstrations "illegal".

Bailiffs will clear parts of the Admiralty protest site covered by an injunction order on Thursday morning, and the police will then move in to dismantle the rest of the camp, which sprawls across a multi-lane highway that runs through the heart of the business district.

"After assisting bailiffs with the execution of the injunction order on Thursday, we will remove other obstacles on the carriageways and pavements," along the main stretch of the protest site and surrounding roads, assistant commissioner of police, Cheung Tak-keung, told reporters.

The aim is to reopen roads to traffic, he said.

Cheung asked protesters to leave in a "peaceful and orderly manner" and said police would take "resolute action" to clear those who resist, warning members of the public to stay away from the site Thursday.

"We are left with no other alternatives but to resort to minimum use of force if there are confrontations caused by the protesters," he added.

A High Court ruling published Tuesday called for the clearance of three sections of the main Admiralty protest site, but the police action will go beyond those parameters.

"I think if they clear the whole of Admiralty, because the injunction is only for one area, people are going to react violently," one 27-year-old protester who gave his name as Alex told AFP.

"I don't agree we should leave without getting any progress." Recent violent clashes have sparked fears that radical splinter groups will dig in for the final stage of the occupation of main roads in parts of the city.

Protest leader Alex Chow of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) told AFP that occupiers would remove barricades from the injunction zones to avoid action from bailiffs and police.

He added that HKFS would "stick to non-violent principles" in the face of any police swoop.

Frustrations boiled over at the end of November when protesters and police clashed outside government headquarters, leaving dozens injured on both sides.

That prompted the leaders of the Occupy Central campaign group to hand themselves in to police in a symbolic move to get the protests off the streets.

Last stand

The Admiralty injunction, sought by a bus company, allows bailiffs to "request the assistance of police" where necessary to clear the site next to the government headquarters.

Bus company lawyer Paul Tse told reporters the injunction would be enforced from 9:00 am Thursday (0100 GMT) and bailiffs posted injunction notices on barricades and lamp-posts on Tuesday afternoon.

Tse added that he hoped protesters would "voluntarily retreat" before then.

Police said a smaller protest site in the shopping district of Causeway Bay would be cleared at "an appropriate time" but gave no further details.

A third protest camp in the commercial zone of Mongkok was cleared late last month.

News of the latest clearance operation comes as public support has waned for a movement that saw tens of thousands take to the street at its height.

Protesters would stay "until the last minute" but not directly confront police, said a 31-year-old artist at the Admiralty site who gave his name only as Wong.

"You do see people moving from the court injunction area, but they are not retreating entirely," he said.

"I can't speak for everyone but people here are willing to be arrested." When asked about the level of force police would use, city leader Leung Chun-ying told reporters Tuesday it would be "minimal".

While some are preparing to stand their ground, others are leaving.

"Many people have gone home and think this movement can be continued in another way - through forums or the Internet," said 22-year-old student Mani who volunteers at one of the Admiralty site's supply stations.

The supply stall had moved out of the injunction zone to a different area, she said.

Local media reported that several thousand police could be deployed for the site clearances.


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