Bailiffs evict Occupy Central protesters from HSBC HQ

Updated: 2012-09-12 06:29

By Kahon Chan(HK Edition)

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 Bailiffs evict Occupy Central protesters from HSBC HQ

Protesters from the Occupy Central movement look on as bailiffs remove their belongings from the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong on Tuesday. All occupiers and their belongings were thrown off the bank's property before 5 pm. Edmond Tang / China Daily

The 10-month-long "Occupy Central" protest came to an abrupt end on Tuesday, as court bailiffs descended on the scene of the protest and evicted the last of the occupiers from their encampment beneath HSBC's Asian headquarters. Some of the hard core group that had remained at the site were carried away bodily. The bailiffs also hauled away the tents that had been used for shelter by the protesters and their banners denouncing capitalism.

Occupy Central, one of the most enduring of the global protests against capitalism, was inspired by last year's Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. The Hong Kong protest ended just six days before the first anniversary of the New York occupation.

HSBC is required to maintain the space below its headquarters as an open plaza for public access, around the clock, but it remains bank property. The courts ruled last month that the occupiers must leave by August 27 to make room for a planned event. Only a few actually did leave, while the majority remained behind in defiance of the court order.

Court bailiffs finally executed the order on Tuesday morning, requiring the occupiers to retreat voluntarily from the plaza by 11 am.

Tents set up on the outskirts of the encampment were first removed, some were still occupied by protesters. Workers also photographed belongings of those who had been staying on the site and packed the items into cartons.

As bailiffs and security guards attempted to carry the uncooperative protesters away by force, they faced a backlash of pushing and scuffling, with the presence of media reporters only adding to the chaos. The bailiffs gave up after an hour but came back before 3 pm with additional back up. Police cordoned off the plaza from the Queen's Road Central entrance and closed off the front.

One occupier confronted the bailiffs, charging that they had failed to follow procedures. Later she warned that they would be held accountable for assault if anyone was hurt.

One by one, the protesters were carried away by bailiffs in a double circle of guards and reporters. They were dropped off outside a police line that had been set up to keep the public away.

In the final moments of the crackdown, tables were pushed aside, while occupiers clung to sofas in a futile bid to stay. In the end, two dilapidated sofas were all that remained of the protest.

All occupiers and their belongings, including the nylon flag embossed with the slogan "Occupy Central", were thrown off the bank's property before 5 pm. The bank gates were promptly lowered to allow the area to be cleaned. Officials of HSBC gave no indication of when the plaza was to be reopened.

At least two security guards and bank staffers were injured and taken away by ambulance. One supervisory bailiff hurt her ankle after she was kicked viciously during the struggle. A short time later, however, she was back on duty.

Three male protesters, aged between 28 and 60, were arrested for assault during the morning encounter. As the evicted occupiers proceeded to the police station in North Point to voice their fury, the Commercial Radio reported that they attempted to break into the police station.

The occupiers had declared that they would not speak to mainstream media because of "biased" coverage that failed to meet the protests aspirations to commence a dialogue on socialism. They refused to disclose their next move.

Up to 50 people camped overnight at "Occupy Central" during the movement's peak. The number of active members shrunk to below 10 as time passed, but the movement hung on until bailiffs took them away.

(HK Edition 09/12/2012 page1)