Hong Kong authorities and activists are set for one last showdown after the publication of a court order authorising the removal of barricades and tents which have blocked the Asian financial hub’s streets for more than two months.
A High Court restraining order carried in newspapers required that obstructions be removed from the Admiralty district – site of the protesters’ main camp downtown.
The site is one of three which the student-led protesters have occupied since late September to press their demands for greater democracy.
Another protest site in the Mong Kok neighbourhood was shut down late last month by authorities enforcing a separate court order. The aggressive police operation sparked several nights of violent clashes in the neighbourhood’s tight grid of streets, resulting in about 160 arrests.
Workers will dismantle the Admiralty protest camp tomorrow starting at 9am local time, said Paul Tse, lawyer for the bus company that took out the injunction.
“What I would like to do now is to make a public plea to the students to [get] away from the scene [while] there is plenty of time,” he said, adding that the company wanted to give protesters enough time to pack up their belongings and leave the site.
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Organisers said as many as 200,000 people joined the protests early on, but numbers have since dwindled and only a handful remain at the Admiralty camp, next to city government headquarters.
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the groups organising the protests, said last week that it was mulling a retreat but had not yet made a decision.
The group had earlier led a failed bid to surround the government complex in a desperate last-minute push to pressure the government over Beijing’s requirement to screen candidates in the inaugural 2017 election for the city’s top leader.
The South China Morning Post newspaper said the third and smallest protest site, in the Causeway Bay district, is expected to be dismantled at the same time, citing unidentified police sources.
The newspaper said 3,000 police officers would be deployed for the operation.
Joshua Wong, a teenager who has become the protest movement’s most prominent leader, at the weekend abandoned a hunger strike on doctor’s orders, after nearly five days. Of the four members of his Scholarism group who had joined him, only one is still refusing food.
Student groups have been considering a retreat from the main campsite for more than a week, with Wong saying his group would maintain the principle of non-violence during the clearance of the Admiralty site.
Volunteers are currently considering how to pack up the huge amount of supplies – from tents and toiletries to saline solution and cereal.
Cheung – a middle-aged volunteer who would only give his surname – said that in the coming days the supplies from his station might be transferred to a warehouse and stored for future campaigns and some would be given to the Hong Kong Federation of Students.
Kenny Ho, 20. a student who sat in a tent next to the injunction area, vowed to stay put until police cleared the site.
He said: “I worry about my future after the movement, but I believe that I will have a future if Hong Kong has a future.”
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