China / HK Macao Taiwan

Hong Kong officers clear portion of street

By Timothy Chui, Shadow Li and Luis Liu in Hong Kong (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-26 07:36

 Hong Kong officers clear portion of street

Court bailiffs come to clear a protest site at Mong Kok in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Parker Zheng / China Daily

Crowd numbers swell as classes end; a leader vows to make removal difficult

A thorough fare in Kowloon was reopened, at least partially, to traffic on Tuesday as court bailiffs and police officers dismantled barricades and tents at an intersection in the Mong Kok neighborhood.

Bailiffs started clearing the intersection of Argyle Street and Nathan Road shortly after 10am, and reopened the major east-west thoroughfare of Argyle Street to traffic around 4 pm after nearly 60 days of occupation by protesters.

A police spokesman said their main aims are twofold: restoring law and order in the area and stopping protesters from reblocking the cleared road.

He said police have confidence they can help bailiffs clear the adjacent Nathan Road on Wednesday. The occupied section of that road is much longer.

More than 3,000 police officers were on hand as a surge of protesters appeared, slowing the progress of a 20-man removal team taking down tents and other protest site fixtures.

The mostly young crowd remained resistant to court orders, with 19-year-old Ken Li, a veteran of the protest, saying he and his peers were prepared to make the clearance as difficult as possible.

Bailiffs unable to contain a crush of protesters from interfering with their work called assistance from the police at about 12:30 pm. Final warnings were issued at 2:45 after defiant protesters refused to budge voluntarily from barricades.

Residents were told to avoid travel to the area, as the horde of protesters ignored repeated calls to disperse, the crowd swelling as classes concluded and office staffers left work.

Standoffs wore on as night fell, and protesters spilled out onto adjacent streets, with police forming lines to guard the cleared road. Dozens of protesters were taken into custody for interfering with the operation.

Several scuffles erupted where the mob met police lines. Most nearby businesses closed early amid fears of violence.

The clearing operation was met with cheers from nearby residents fed up with the squatters, who had taken over the neighborhood.

A 72-year-old resident surnamed Chan said it was high time the government stepped in to clear the roadblocks that forced him to walk an extra 15 minutes to catch his bus.

A 60-year-old owner of a fish ball stand near the heart of the area, surnamed Ngan, hastily shuttered his business but welcomed the clearance, complaining that the occupation had led to monthly losses of HK$20,000($2,600).

"I've never seen it this bad in the five years I've been here. I hope police can get the area back to normal as soon as possible," he told China Daily.

Police have rated Mong Kok the most dangerous of the three main protest venues. A heavy police presence remained, with officers on high alert for possible retaliation by protesters.

Tuesday's action comes nearly a week after an initial, incident-free clearance at a government office site after explicit orders from Hong Kong's High Court for the protesters to clear key roads.

Public opinion has swung sharply against the ongoing protests, whose participants are agitating for political reforms, according to polls. A series of polls show that most residents were fed up with the indefinite occupation and road closures.

HongKong Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam said the government was always open to communication with the students but insisted that talks not be based on impractical conditions such as the reversal of the central government's directive on political reform.

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