Hong Kong police clear protest sites

Operation under way for second day at main protest site that was occupied by pro-democracy demonstrators for two weeks.

    Police officers armed with bolt cutters, chainsaws and sledgehammers have been clearing barricades along a stretch of the main protest site in Hong Kong held by pro-democracy demonstrators for the past fortnight.

    The police operation early on Tuesday was the third in two days to dismantle barricades after two weeks of protests in the Asian financial hub.

    The officers opened another road in the Causeway Bay shopping district that had been blocked by the protesters.

    Al Jazeera's Divya Gopalan, reporting from Hong Kong, said that there was a sense of huge loss for many of the protesters who stood by and saw the police taking down the barricades with tears in their eyes.

    "The police operation was precise and it took them only 19 minutes to take down the barricades," she said.

    "There were close to a 1,000 policemen according to the protesters."

    The police said in a news conference on Tuesday that they will continue to remove more barricades but they also emphasised at the same time that there were no plans of clearing the protest sites completely.

    "Police will soon take action to take down the obstacles at Queensway [in Admiralty] and Yee Wo Street [in Causeway Bay], so as to recover part of the roads for public transport and tram services. But not to clear the protesters," Hui Chun-ta, the chief superintendent at the Police Public Relations Branch, said.

    Violent clashes

    Violent clashes had erupted on Monday between anti-protest groups and demonstrators after police removed barricades.

    Wealth gap fuels discontent in Hong Kong

    About 100 officers charged down Queensway, a major thoroughfare running through the heart of Hong Kong, to tackle a string of barricades running across the road, the AFP news agency said.

    Officers used clippers to slice through the plastic ties that protesters had used to lash railings and bamboo poles together, AFP said.

    Police also cleared out protesters' tents nearby, and started to take down other makeshift barricades of plywood, trash cans and items collected by protesters and piling them into trucks and vans, the Associated Press news agency said.

    But the spokesperson of one of the main student groups told Al Jazeera that they have not given up on Queensway just yet.

    Nathan Law, from Hong Kong Federation of Student, said, "We believe that if the frontline protesters could afford to rebuild the barricades at Queensway we will definitely rebuild it and to try to get back Queensway. Because the government has no concession so we will not back down in this stage."

    Barricades reinforced

    The barricades to the south of the main Admiralty protest site had been reinforced overnight with bamboo poles following a similar attempt by police on Monday to remove protester cordons which were primarily constructed out of metal railings.

    "Police have decided to take the next step in action to take away unlawful obstacles on the westbound lane and tram lines of Queensway," a police spokesman said shortly before the operation started.

    The protesters, mostly students, are demanding full democracy for the former British colony.

    The protest initially gained wide public support but that has waned as frustrations build over traffic gridlocks gripping Hong Kong.

    Vast crowds have rallied against China's insistence that it would choose candidates standing for election as the city's next leader in 2017.

    The protesters, led by university students, have occupied sections of roads in three main areas in Hong Kong since September 28 in a civil disobedience movement against the "fake democracy" in the Asian financial hub.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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