HONG KONG – A planned police action to clear pro-democracy protesters from some of the areas of the city they have occupied for six weeks will likely be delayed until early next week, according to reports.
A ruling from Hong Kong's High Court Monday empowered the city's police to arrest demonstrators who interfered with bailiffs, who have been planning to remove protesters from some areas for weeks.
An attempt to remove protesters had been expected following the ruling, but a number of factors have arisen that will likely delay any attempt to clear protesters. According to the South China Morning Post, protest groups are seeking a legal delay, in order to give them time to prepare arguments against the order, the police require time to clarify their role with the department of justice, and bailiffs do not work on weekends.
A taxi drivers association, a minibus company and a company that owns a commercial building adjacent to government headquarters, the site of the main protest camp, applied for injunctions against the protesters three weeks ago.
Phyllis Kwong, a lawyer representing one of the taxi drivers' groups that applied for one of the injunctions, told local broadcaster RTHK the removal actions at protest sites would take place on Friday at the earliest, because the court can only seal the injunction order after an appeal hearing, which is scheduled to take place Thursday.
Despite the legal uncertainty, police in the city are reportedly making plans for clearing protest site, with officers being put on special schedules, with holidays canceled, longer shifts and more overnight hours starting Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. The paper, who spoke to a source familiar with the planning of the operation, said that the priority was not to use force, but that officers would do so if protesters resisted.
Chinese president Xi Jinping reiterated his position that Hong Kong's protest movement was “illegal,” when speaking at the APEC summit Wednesday, adding a warning against any “foreign interference,” in the city's affairs.
U.S. President Barack Obama, also speaking at APEC, denied that the U.S. had supported the protests, a claim widely circulated in the Chinese media, and repeated by many Hong Kong-based opponents of the protests.
Police have previously attempted to clear protesters and remove barricades from the protest sites at Mong Kong and in Central, but their actions have tended to prompt a swelling in protester numbers.
Protesters in the city want the 2017 election for the city's chief executive to be conducted in line with “international standards” of democracy, while the government insists that any candidates for the post must be vetted by a committee widely viewed as loyal to China's ruling Communist party.