HK Occupy protests nearing end

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-26 0:13:01

Police clear Mong Kok, arrest 80 demonstrators

Journalists gather as workers assist bailiffs in removing a barricade under a court injunction in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on Tuesday. The site has seen some of the more violent clashes during nearly two months of Occupy sit-ins. Photo: AFP

The Occupy protests in Hong Kong are approaching an end, experts and legislators say, after local authorities successfully cleared a key protest camp in the bustling district of Mong Kok and arrested 80 protesters on Tuesday following a court order to reopen a road.

Traffic on Mong Kok's Argyle Street resumed in the late afternoon after court-appointed bailiffs cleared away barricades and tents erected by demonstrators, who remained largely calm, only resisting the clearance at several points.

Most protesters left the Argyle Street site after its clearance, but some retreated toward nearby Portland Street, snarling traffic and causing shopkeepers on the street to shutter their stores, according to reports from Radio Television Hong Kong.

Some 3,000 police officers were deployed to assist the bailiffs in the operation, a much higher number than were used to assist in the clearance of a protest site in Admiralty district on November 18.

Riot police moved into the area in the evening and used tear spray to disperse demonstrators blocking Portland Street.

Police said a total of 80 people were arrested during the clearance of the Mong Kok site, with some arrested after scuffles broke out when protesters refused to obey requests they leave the protest site. Others were arrested later for blocking Portland Street.

The operation in Mong Kok comes a week after the partial clearance of another protest site next to the local government headquarters in Admiralty, bringing an end to the months-long protest movement into sight.

Some 3,000 police officers also stood guard at the former protest site in Admiralty on Tuesday.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying expressed on Tuesday his hope that business could resume for shops in the area. He also reiterated that the protest was an unlawful assembly, and called for the demonstrators to respect and obey the law.

"The common call of Hong Kong people has finally been answered. Now [the protest] is coming to an end which is necessary and inevitable. The public has suffered enough," Leticia Lee See-yin , a co-founder of the anti-Occupy Blue Ribbon Movement, told the Global Times.

"Many of our members are living in Mong Kok or operating their businesses in the area. They are all angry at the protest for affecting their business. Two shop owners even shut down their stores because they can no longer afford losses caused by the protest," said Lee.

Dubbed a "high-risk area" by local police and government officials, the working-class district of Mong Kok has reportedly been home to a larger group of radical protesters and has seen some of the most violent clashes during the nearly two months of the ongoing Occupy protests demanding "genuine" democratic elections for the city's next leader in 2017.

Legislators believe the successful clearance of the Mong Kok site has proven that the protests are diminishing as they approach an end.

"The authorities encountered much less resistance compared to a month ago when protesters reacted violently when police tried to remove barricades in the same area in Mong Kok. Now the public has expressed a stronger desire than ever for the protest to end. It is time for the main organizers to announce their departure from the campaign," Tang Ka-piu, a lawmaker with the Federation of Trade Unions, told the Global Times.

The three co-founders of the movement, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chu Yiu-ming and Chan Kin-man said earlier that they would turn themselves in to police next Friday. Representatives of the two other major organizers of the protests, Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism, have not announced their plans for further action.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's number two official, said on Tuesday that the government is currently preparing for a second round of consultation for the 2017 election, but expressed concerns over whether the protests would stall progress.

Read more: Mainland attitude sealed fate of HK protest

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