HK protest leaders arrested

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-27 0:38:02

Public welcomes reopening of roads, businesses

Police move a couch as they clear away an Occupy protest camp in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on Wednesday. More than 100 people were arrested during the operation in the past two days. Photo: AFP

Two key student leaders at the heart of the Hong Kong Occupy protests were arrested Wednesday during the second day that authorities moved to clear a major protest site in Mong Kok, as residents and business owners expressed relief over resumed traffic and business operations in the area.

Hong Kong police and bailiffs met little resistance as they successfully completed the second phase of the operation to clear the most volatile of Hong Kong's three protest sites as ongoing Occupy protests entered their 60th day.

Crowds nearby cheered and clapped as the last remaining barricades were removed from the site, freeing up space for traffic on Nathan Road, one of Hong Kong's busiest boulevards, to resume at around 3:30 pm.

The clearance on Wednesday opened a much longer section of Nathan Road in the bustling working-class district of Mong Kok, after a small but crucial intersection was successfully cleared the day before.

A total of 148 people were arrested during the two-day operation and charged with offenses including contempt of court, unlawful assembly and resisting arrest, according to Radio Television Hong Kong.

Among them were prominent student activists Lester Shum, deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Students, and Joshua Wong, the leader of Scholarism.

The demonstrators have been calling for wider representation in candidates for the 2017 election of Hong Kong's chief executive.

"The taxi drivers are very pleased with the resumed traffic after the clearance. Some of them have lost one-third or even half of their usual monthly revenue because of the protests," Phyllis Kwong Ka-yin, the lawyer who represents the taxi drivers' group that obtained the court order to clear the site, told the Global Times.

Hong Kong-based Cable TV said 4,000 police officers participated in Wednesday's clearance. Clashes broke out several times between police and protesters.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying urged protesters not to return to the protest site, restating his position that the protests are illegal after some protesters vowed to return to the site.

The injunction remains in effect. Anyone who remains at the site or blocks roads with barricades will be in breach of the law and may face imprisonment, Kwong warned.

"As the clearance is carried out under a court injunction, there is no more gray area that would allow the protesters to continue their protest," Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan, a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told the Global Times.

As clearance of the Mong Kok protest camp progressed, protesters were still blocking traffic in segments of roads in the city's Admiralty district, nearby the region's government headquarters and major shopping and financial areas.

"There are still some protesters blocking our access to the legislative council building [in Admiralty] but the number has been greatly reduced. We still have to observe whether the protesters will go on the offensive again in the coming few days," said Quat.

Speaking at a regular press conference on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the Occupy protests are illegal in every sense, that no country would allow them, and that the central government remains resolute in its support for the Hong Kong authorities' handling of the situation according to law.

Wall Street Journal in a report on Tuesday, quoting an unidentified source familiar with the discussions, said the Beijing government is considering adjusting the makeup of the nominating committee that will select candidates running for Hong Kong's next chief executive in 2017 as a way to address public concern.

That possibility, however, was ruled out by Qiang Shigong, executive director of the Center for Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The central government's decision on August 21 is final and there is unlikely to be any fundamental change to the committee's composition, Qiang was quoted by Hong Kong China News Agency as saying.

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