HONG KONG -- Police and bailiffs removed barricades from a protest site in Hong Kong on Tuesday, after transport groups and the owner of a commercial building secured injunctions calling for the site to be cleared.
There was little resistance to the clearance effort from protesters, many of whom removed their own tents and dismantled barricades before police had an opportunity to do so. Masked protesters were seen carrying crash barriers -- which demonstrators have used to block city streets -- away from the area covered by the injunction, to reinforce barricades at the main protest site on Connaught Road.
The only dispute between demonstrators and authorities was about whether a roundabout, which had been occupied by protesters for weeks, was covered by the injunction, which included Lung Wui road, outside the office building's entrance, and Tim Mei Avenue, where the main vehicle entrance to Hong Kong's government headquarters is located. Protesters are still occupying the roundabout, demanding that authorities clarify whether it is covered by the injunction.
The clearance operation began after police officers and bailiffs gathered in the Citic Tower office building at about 9 a.m. (8 p.m. EST). Bailiffs, escorted by police officers, came out into the streets and made public announcements telling protesters to pack up and leave the area, warning that anyone who remained could be arrested, and be found in contempt of court.
Hong Kong lawmaker Albert Ho told the International Business Times that he felt that it was right for students not to resist the clearance action, saying, “Other [protest] sites are more important.”
Protester Jason Fung, a garment worker, told the South China Morning Post: "We'll just go protest somewhere that the injunction doesn't cover."
The operation, which is still ongoing, but appears largely to have succeeded as police had planned, will represent the first time in over 50 days of occupation that protesters have willingly ceded an area to authorities.
It may also not be the last. Groups representing Hong Kong taxi drivers and a minibus company have also obtained injunctions against protesters across the harbor in Mong Kok, a busy shopping district. Plaintiffs in the case and police have announced that an attempt to clear the Mong Kok protest site will take place later this week.
When police attempted to clear demonstrators from Mong Kok last month, thousands of protesters swarmed on a site that had previously seen only a few hundred occupiers.