الأحد , يونيو 14 2020

HK police clear main protest camp

Members of the media and bystanders (L) look on as authorities (C) dismantle a barricade

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John Sudworth: China’s “biggest challenge from the street in decades”

Hong Kong police are arresting pro-democracy activists and clearing the main protest camp at Admiralty, after more than two months of demonstrations.

Many left as bailiffs and police removed the camp’s barricades but some vowed to stay despite police warnings.

Police began their operation early on Thursday in what is widely seen as the final act in the long-running protests.

The number of protesters has dwindled in recent weeks from the tens of thousands who turned out in September.

They want Beijing to allow free elections for the territory’s next leader in 2017. China says everyone can vote but a pro-Beijing committee will screen candidates.

High profile arrests

Police officers started to clear the camp and dismantle tents after issuing orders for protesters to vacate the “occupied area” within 30 minutes or face arrest.

Among those arrested were opposition Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, student leader Nathan Law, media tycoon Jimmy Lai and singer Denise Ho.

A pro-democracy protester (C) is arrested after police cleared a major pro-democracy protest camp next to the central government offices in the Admiralty district in Hong Kong on 11 December 2014. Police officers carried a number of protesters away from Hong Kong’s main pro-democracy site

Hong Kong police begin to dismantle the remaining pro-democracy tents set up along a road at the protest camp in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on 11 December  2014.They gave a 30-minute window for demonstrators to leave or face arrest before moving into Admiralty

Police stand as they clear an area, previously blocked by pro-democracy, near the government headquarters building at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, 11 December 2014.There was a tense standoff as police lined up in preparation to dismantle what remains of the camp

This was a protest that had run out of steam long before Thursday’s clearance in large part because Beijing stood firm, refusing to give up its power of veto over Hong Kong’s election candidates, says the BBC’s John Sudworth in Hong Kong.

But, he continues, the umbrellas remain a potent symbol of the desire of many in this city for greater democracy, and while the protests may be over, the fight probably is not.

As police approached the last remaining protesters, Alex Chow, head of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, rallied the crowds, saying the fight was not over, AP reports.

Meanwhile, a dozen people who opposed the protests turned up to cheer on the police, the South China Morning Post reports.

Hong Kong protests map

Earlier in the morning, bailiffs read out a final warning to protesters shortly before workers, backed by police, moved in and began dismantling barricades in one section of the site, using box cutters to remove ties.

Footage from the scene showed police tearing down supply and first aid tents, as well as a study area used by students.

Trucks with cranes were also used to pick up debris left behind from the broken barriers, plastic sheets and umbrellas.

Clear up monitors

The clearance is the result of a court order obtained by a bus company which says the protests have disrupted its business.

While the order covered three portions of the Admiralty site, including the main Connaught Road area, Hong Kong police spokesman Cheung Tak-keung said officers would also clear blocked roads.

He said they would clear away barricades from a second protest site at Causeway Bay “at an appropriate time”. About 20 people remain there, the South China Morning Post reports.

Workers remove a barricade at an area blocked by pro-democracy protesters near the government headquarters building at the financial Central district in Hong Kong on 11 December 2014Workers in white hats started cutting into barricades as the clearance operation began

The debris of a pro-democracy protest camp is cleared away into trucks next to the central government offices in the Admiralty district in Hong Kong on 11 December 2014.Trucks carrying cranes moved in to clear some of the debris left behind

A general view of a main road after police clear barricades and tents outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on 11 December 2014. The protests have been blocking the city centre for more than two months

Some pro-democracy politicians joined the students at the site and academics and a police watchdog were monitoring the clearance operation.

Some protesters, however, packed up their tents as Thursday dawned.

“I’ll probably leave just before the action because my job would be difficult if my name was recorded by police,” one 29-year-old protester told AFP news agency.

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Hong Kong protests: Timeline

  • 28 Sept: Occupy Central begins, as activist group brings forward its campaign after students flood the streets; police fire tear gas. Public anger brings more people out.
  • Late Sep to mid October: Major rallies that swell at weekends take place at three protests sites, but numbers slowly dwindle.
  • 21 Oct: Talks between student leaders and Hong Kong government go ahead – but go nowhere.
  • 26 Nov: Clashes erupt as Mong Kok protest camp is cleared.
  • 3 Dec: Occupy Central leaders end campaign and present themselves to police; student protests continue.

How the past two months of protests have evolved

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Clashes erupted when a third protest site, at Mong Kok, was cleared last month. On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s top civil servant Carrie Lam urged students to leave the Admiralty site peacefully.

Later that night, more than 10,000 people gathered at the protest site, chanting pro-democracy slogans in what many saw as a farewell to the current demonstrations.

At their height, the protests were seen as the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule in Hong Kong since the 1997 handover.

Rallies in late September and early October saw huge crowds on the streets. But numbers fell as weeks passed and many Hong Kong residents also spoke out against the protests because of disruption to the city.

Beijing has not moved from its position on Hong Kong’s election process, describing the demonstrations as illegal.

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