HONG KONG- Authorities on Tuesday cleared part of Hong Kong’s main pro-democracy protest camp, facing no resistance as they launched the first of several planned evictions to reopen roads blocked for nearly two months.
Demonstrators have been camped on three major thoroughfares since September 28 demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, but public support has ebbed as the weeks pass with little progress.
The Chinese government insists that candidates for the 2017 vote must be vetted by a loyalist committee — an arrangement the protesters say will ensure the election of a pro-Beijing stooge.
Dozens of police and bailiffs stood guard Tuesday as workers dismantled metal barricades blocking access to a skyscraper opposite government headquarters, on the edge of the sprawling main camp in the central Admiralty district.
The operation, which took place under the watch of a gaggle of protesters and a huge scrum of journalists, came after the owners of the CITIC Tower office block won a court injunction ordering that protesters clear its immediate vicinity.
Tensions rose briefly as bailiffs removed further barricades from a roundabout opposite government headquarters, with protesters angrily shouting that the area was not covered by the court ruling.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan accused the authorities of “hiding behind the courts” in a bid to end the protests, rather than pursuing talks with the activists.
“What is needed is a political solution. We want the government to negotiate — not police action,” Lee told reporters.
“The protesters have been very restrained already by giving up part of the space. We expect the same from the other side.”