Authorities in Hong Kong dismantled barricades near pro-democracy demonstration sites on Tuesday morning, allowing traffic to flow freely on several major roads that had been blocked for weeks, reports said. But protesters remained on the streets in droves and vowed to rebuild the structures in continued defiance of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s Beijing-friendly government.
Hundreds of police officers focused on clearing Queensway Road -- a major artery in Hong Kong’s business district -- as well as barricades around the Causeway Bay shopping center, the Washington Post reports. Officers remained behind to prevent protesters from swarming the road again but didn't take action against other protest sites in the city’s Admiralty District. Hong Kong’s government said in a statement that their actions were essential “to ensure public safety and maintain public order.”
Many demonstrators tried to block the police’s path to the main protest site north of Queensway, while others responded by blocking off a tunnel on another major road near Hong Kong’s government headquarters, Reuters reports. Riot police used pepper spray on some protesters, but ultimately conceded the area. Some demonstrators began to erect new barricades near the seized tunnel, the Associated Press reports.
“We will rebuild [the barricades] after the police remove them,” a protester told Reuters. “We won’t confront the police physically.”
Police made a similar effort to destroy barricades near protest sites on Monday, and spokesman Steve Hui vowed that they would continue to do so in the future, the AP notes. Violent clashes on Monday between anti-protest groups and pro-democracy demonstrators led to 23 arrests, he added. Traffic and disorder caused by the protests have interrupted local business and drained public support for the student-led movement.
Demonstrators demanded universal suffrage and called for Leung’s resignation after the Chinese government reneged on its pledge to allow fully democratic elections in 2017. Earlier this week, Leung said there was “almost zero chance” that Beijing would acquiesce to their demands.