HK police clear protest camp after clashes

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Fresh scuffles break out as Hong Kong authorities move in to clear the main body of a major pro-democracy protest site, a day after more than 100 demonstrators were arrested. Duration: 00:52

HK police clear protest camp after clashes

Hong Kong police clear protest camp after clashes

/ Hong Kong (China) – 26 November 2014 12:26 – AFP (Dennis CHONG) – LEAD

UPDATES on clearance status and ADDS context

Fresh scuffles broke out Wednesday as Hong Kong authorities moved in to clear the main body of a major pro-democracy protest site, a day after more than 100 demonstrators were arrested.

Police wearing helmets and brandishing batons moved in to protect city workers as crowds surged forward to stop them tearing down barricades at the largest part of the Mongkok site.

Protester groups said the movement’s student leaders Joshua Wong and Lester Shum were arrested by police.

Hundreds of police were involved in the operation where they quickly pushed protesters back, removed wooden and metal barricades, tents and other obstructions along a 500 metre stretch of road.

Only dozens of protesters remained at the edge of what used to be the protest site around two hours after the operation started.

Tensions were running high the day after police used pepper spray on pro-democracy protesters at the camp, which has been the scene of some of the most violent clashes since the sit-ins began in on September 28.

“If we lose here, we won’t lose our heart. We can go somewhere else (to occupy). It doesn’t need to be here,” Kelvin Ng, a 21-year-old protester, told AFP.

Pro-democracy protesters have been camped out on Hong Kong’s streets for almost two months to demand fully free elections for the leadership of the southern Chinese city.

Police said in a statement they had arrested 116 people, including a 14-year-old boy, after Tuesday’s clashes. Twenty police officers were injured, they added.

Police had also arrested a television news crew member who was covering the clearance of the site, the Hong Kong Journalists Association said, condemning the arrest.

– Waning public support –

Workers wearing “I love HK” T-shirts and red baseball caps initially removed barricades blocking the road at the adjacent larger site on Nathan Road on Wednesday, but protesters remained defiant.

“Please obey the injunction, leave immediately,” a court bailiff told the crowd before the clearance action.

“I won’t leave. It’s been illegal from day one with or without the court order,” said a protester wearing a yellow helmet and a mask who refused to give his name.

The clearance is the third since the high court in the semi-autonomous Chinese city granted injunctions to let authorities start clearing parts of the protest sites.

It comes as public support wanes for the demonstrators, who are protesting against China’s restrictions on who will be allowed to stand in the 2017 chief executive election, and as the movement’s leaders are split on the next move.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, which has led the protests, said it was considering its next step.

“The path of communication has run its course. If the government continues to resort to collusion with the police, unscrupulously going against the tide, then we can only take the next step of action,” it said on its Facebook page.

Demonstrators clashed with police in Mongkok last month after they tried to reclaim part of a protest camp which had been cleared out by authorities.

Officers used batons and pepper spray against protesters who shielded themselves with umbrellas, but were eventually forced into a partial retreat.

The student-led protests have at times drawn tens of thousands of people onto the streets over the last two months. But the crowds have dwindled as the movement has struggled to maintain momentum and commuters have grown weary of transport disruptions.

END

Tags : Clashes, after, camp, protest, clear, police

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