Occupiers Pull Back as Barricades Are Removed at Hong Kong Protest Site

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Security personnel remove a barricade near a pro-democracy protest site in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, Nov. 18, 2014.
Security personnel remove a barricade near a pro-democracy protest site in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, Nov. 18, 2014.

Workers and protesters have removed some of the barricades near a major Occupy Central pro-democracy encampment in Hong Kong, meeting no resistance from pro-democracy campaigners after an initial debate was resolved.

In the first of a series of actions aimed at enforcing civil injunctions granted by the former British colony's High Court, workers began cutting plastic ties holding metal barricades together, while protesters removed barricades on their side, taking them away for future use.

"Please could anyone who remains within the area covered by the injunction please immediately pack up their things and leave," the bailiff told protesters through a megaphone, adding that anyone who failed to comply could be held in contempt of court.

However, protesters had already moved their tents before the bailiff arrived, and had gathered to watch proceedings, making no attempt to obstruct the removal of barricades, online video of the incident showed.

Meanwhile, pan-democratic lawmaker Albert Ho negotiated with lawyers from Golden Investment, the joint venture controlled by Chinese state-owned Citic Group, which owns the 33-storey Citic Tower building opposite government headquarters in Admiralty district.

After winning lawyers round to his point of view, Ho told local media he was pleased to have avoided a conflict between workers and student activists campaigning for full democracy in 2017 elections for the territory's chief executive.

He said pedestrians and vehicles can now enter the area, fulfilling the terms of the court injunction. Any further action by the authorities would be "politically motivated," he told the South China Morning Post newspaper.

Some barricades remain

However, injunctions remain unenforced in the busy shopping districts of Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, while injunctions applying to roads elsewhere in Admiraltyat the heart of the main site known as "Umbrella Square"may yet be granted.

Joshua Wong, leader of the academic activist group Scholarism, said on Monday that protesters are willing to restore access to the main entrance of the building.

"That is now open, but if they want to remove any more of the barriers, that I think that would be politically motivated, and the bailiffs should do something about it," he told RFA.

A protester who asked to remain anonymous said the remaining barricades are important as a way of preventing cars from approaching the main encampment on Admiralty's Harcourt Road.

"We'll stay as long as we can, and take it day by day," the protester said.

Meanwhile, Alex Chow, leader of the influential Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), said protesters wouldn't allow total clearance of all protest sites, where campaigners have been encamped since riot police tried to disperse them with tear gas and pepper spray on Sept.

The crackdown by police swelled protest numbers to the hundreds of thousands in the days that followed.

"Our members will stay with other protesters to the last minute," Chow told reporters, adding that many protesters were ready to risk arrest.

Police told reporters that bailiffs were unlikely to move to clear the Mong Kok injunction area before Thursday at the earliest.

Call to leave the sites

The Occupy Central movement began after China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), ruled on Aug. 31 that while all five million of Hong Kong's voters can cast ballots in elections scheduled for 2017 for Hong Kong's chief executive, they will only be able to choose between two or three candidates preselected by Beijing.

Occupy protesters and pan-democratic politicians, who won 54 percent of the popular vote in the last legislative elections, have dismissed the proposed reform package as "fake universal suffrage."

But Occupy Central co-founder and sociology professor Chan Kin-man on Tuesday called on protesters, now mostly students, to leave the main sites or consider scaling back their protest.

The chances that Beijing could have a change of heart are slim, and public opinion has clearly turned against the Occupy movement, Chan wrote in a newspaper article published in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

"The priority now should be to minimize the disturbance the movement is causing to people's daily lives in order to win their support," Chan wrote.

A survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong conducted last weekend found that more than two thirds of respondents think it is time to end the protest.

Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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