HONG KONG -- A group of up to 500 anti-Occupy demonstrators clashed with protesters and attempted to remove barricades in Hong Kong Monday. Police have reportedly made arrests, though no official figure is available at this time.
The trouble started around 1:30 p.m. local time (1:30 a.m. EDT) when a group of masked men with a lifting vehicle arrived at Queensway in Central, the outermost edge of the main Occupy Central protest site, and attempted to use a mechanical arm to remove barriers erected by protesters over two weeks ago. The group was identified as consisting of taxi and truck drivers, angered by the disruption to traffic in the city, as well as pro-Beijing protesters.
â€” Silvio Carrillo (@angryburrito) October 13, 2014
The group shouted “Open the way” and attempted to remove barricades and tents that had been erected by Occupy protesters. As protesters started to resist, the two groups were separated by police officers, and the pro-government faction was corralled into a nearby side street, away from the Occupy protest site outside government headquarters.
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Occupy protesters are now reinforcing the barricades, watched by police officers in riot gear. However, there is suspicion among protesters that police may have colluded with anti-Occupy groups.
Edward Chin Chi-kin, a core member of Occupy Central's financial group, told the South China Morning Post that he hopes that police are not cooperating with the truck drivers in removing the barricades.
Legislator Audrey Eu questioned where police were during the early altercations. "It's all too much of a coincidence... The removal of the barricades is obviously to make it easier for people with different views to harass the people here," she said.
Police had moved in in the early hours of Monday to dismantle some of the outer barricades around the admiralty protest site, with some success. Part of Queensway that had been closed to traffic was reopened, albeit with protesters operating a checkpoint and allowing cars through one at a time.
Earlier in the day, a group of pro-Beijing groups from Hong Kong's New Territories protested the occupation outside government headquarters, and were met by jeers from protesters encamped there, but there was no physical confrontation.