Smaller protests continued on Friday outside Hong Kong's legislature and in a busy shopping district after some 7,000 police moved in to clear the last protesters from the main Occupy Central on Thursday, arresting 247 people.
A handful of protesters remained encamped outside the semiautonomous Chinese city's Legislative Council (LegCo) in a bid to keep up the pressure on the government for fully democratic elections in 2017 and beyond.
LegCo chairman and pro-Beijing politician Jasper Tsang said he hadn't ruled out asking for police assistance to remove the protesters.
"The area in question...isn't a public space, and if people begin any sort of movement there, the secretariat will try to use their own efforts...to get them to see sense and move on of their own accord," Tsang told reporters.
"That way, we won't have to ask the police to help us."
Protesters vowed to stay until moved on, however.
"We are gathered here...[because] the Basic Law gives citizens the right of assembly and protest," one protester outside LegCo told RFA, in a reference to the former British colony's mini-constitution.
But he said he had no plans to resist if police tried to remove the group.
'We won't leave'
A second protester surnamed Tsik said protesters planned to stay until LegCo begins its session next week.
"We won't leave, unless the police come and force us to leave," he said. "But we will want to know what law we are supposed to have broken."
"Don't we have the right to make our views heard, to demonstrate?"
He said the Occupy movement will continue in spite of the loss of its main encampment near government headquarters in Admiralty district after Thursday's clearance operation.
"All we want are fully democratic elections," Tsik said.
Student leaders of the civil disobedience movement, which blocked key highways and intersections in Hong Kong for more than two months, said they would likely switch tactics and avoid blocking roads in future protests in the densely populated and congested city.
"Now that the road occupation has ended, students will now go into the community to publicize their ideas," Joshua Wong, who heads the academic activist group Scholarism, told government broadcaster RTHK.
"If there are occupy movements or other kinds of civil disobedience campaigns in the future, we won't allow them to drag on, but instead employ flexible strategies," said Wong, who has been criticized for his absence from the clearance when four other student leaders were arrested.
'More radical' protests likely
Meanwhile, Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai said "more radical" protests now look likely.
"If the government could not respond to the people's call for genuine universal suffrage, it is possible that more radical actions will appear in the future," Tai told reporters on Friday.
"This is something that the local government and Beijing should think about," he said.
He said even if Beijing's electoral reform package gets through LegCo, unrest could still lie ahead.
Small protests also continued in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island and in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, where a protest camp was cleared last month amid widespread clashes with police.
A group of Christians carrying the now-familiar yellow slogans and umbrella logo gathered at the Times Square shopping mall, singing Christmas carols with the lyrics rewritten to call for greater democracy, photos and tweets posted to social media showed.
A Causeway Bay occupier, who gave only a nickname A Man, said he felt out of options at the imminent clearance of the last remaining occupation site in Hong Kong.
"I had hoped that we would still be allowed this place as a gathering place," A Man said, adding that he would likely take part in any future Occupy Central actions.
"If a lot of people turn out...when the Causeway Bay site is cleared, the government will understand the determination of the people to win universal suffrage," he said.
Hong Kong financial secretary John Tsang said the clearance of the Occupy sites was "good news" for the territory's economy, although a recent study failed to show any significant impact on the city's performance as a financial hub.
"Once the sites have been cleared, local shopkeepers and small and medium-sized businesses will start to feel that things are going better," Tsang said. "Now the traffic is flowing freely, people's lives can get back to normal."
"I'm sure that Hong Kong people are happy about that, and I think this is positive news for the economy," he told reporters.
According to an Aug. 31 decision from the country's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), all five million of Hong Kong's voters will cast ballots in the 2017 poll, but may only choose between two or three candidates vetted by a Beijing-backed election committee.
Control by Beijing
Meanwhile, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has hit out at international support for the Occupy Central protests, saying that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration is "void" and that China answers to no one in exercising sovereignty over Hong Kong, which was handed back by the U.K. in 1997.
Beijing on Friday lauded the clearance operation, saying that the ruling Chinese Communist Party "fully agrees and firmly supports" the Hong Kong government and police.
"The Occupy protest has not won the favor of the Hong Kong people," the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office under China's cabinet, the State Council, said in a statement.
"We have noticed that the clearance operation was well received and welcomed by the residents of Hong Kong," it said.
It called on Hong Kong to "learn from" the protests and build consensus around the territory's future political development.
"We hope that Hong Kong society will engage in rational and pragmatic discussions and accumulate consensus about its political development within the boundaries of the Basic Law and decisions adopted by the Standing Committee of National People's Congress," the statement, carried by the official Xinhua news agency, said.
It called on Hong Kong to follow the blueprint laid down in the NPC's Aug. 31 decision to "realize universal suffrage" in 2017.
The people of Hong Kong should have a better understanding and implementation of the "one country, two systems" principles, it said, referring to the formula agreed by Britain and China before the handover.
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.