Police clear Hong Kong protest site

Authorities make arrests as protesters continue with sit-ins, defying police-issued deadlines to disperse.

    Police clear Hong Kong protest site
    Hong Kong authorities cleared the main protest site near the heart of the financial centre [Reuters]

    Hong Kong authorities have demolished a protest camp where protesters demanding electoral reforms have been camping for over two months.

    Scores of activists taken away by police on Thursday vowed their fight for genuine elections would continue.

    Protesters were allowing themselves to be taken away without putting up resistance, said Al Jazeera's Divya Gopalan, reporting from Hong Kong.

    Hundreds of police officers armed with chain saws and bolt cutters dismantled barricades, tore down canopies and removed banners.

    Police said 209 people were arrested for unlawful assembly and obstructing police officers.

    The operation was peaceful and unmarked by the violent clashes seen in previous confrontations between protesters and police. Traffic started flowing on the road by mid-evening.

    Momentum fading

    The student-led protesters had occupied streets in three neighbourhoods since September 28 to protest Beijing's restrictions on the first election of the city's top leader.

    However, momentum had faded in recent weeks as Hong Kong officials and China's Communist leaders gave little ground, a reflection of the tough stance that President Xi Jinping has taken on dissent.

    Hundreds of demonstrators heeded police warnings to leave the protest zone to avoid being arrested, but dozens of students, pro-democracy lawmakers and others, including middle-aged and elderly supporters, remained sitting on the street.

    Protesters chanted "I want true democracy" and "We will be back" but offered no resistance as they were taken away one by one, many lifted off the ground.

    Among those police took away were pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, pop singer Denise Ho, veteran pro-democracy activist Martin Lee and pro-democracy legislators including Albert Ho. 

    "[These protests] have changed Hong Kong for good, but there has been no compromise from Beijing. Where we go from here is what every one will be watching," said Al Jazeera's Sarah Clarke, reporting from the scene.

    Leaders from the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism, two student groups that have played key roles in organising the protests, were also taken to police stations.

    The sprawling encampment in Hong Kong's Admiralty section, next to city government headquarters, was the focal point of what became known as the "Umbrella Movement" because of the protesters' use of umbrellas to fend off police pepper spray.

    You can follow Divya Gopala on Twitter:  @divyagnews

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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