Hong Kong authorities begin clearing main protest camp

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Hong Kong (AFP) – Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday cleared a small part of the city s main pro-democracy protest camp, the first of several planned evictions to shrink mass sit-ins that have blocked major thoroughfares for seven weeks.

There was no resistance from demonstrators as workers dismantled metal barricades blocking access to a skyscraper opposite government headquarters, on the edge of the sprawling camp in the central Admiralty district.

Dozens of police and bailiffs stood guard as staff removed the barriers from outside the 33-floor CITIC Tower office block, enforcing a court injunction won by the building s owners.

But an argument broke out as the workers removed several more fences from a nearby roundabout, with protesters shouting that the area did not fall under the injunction.

“This is unacceptable to the protesters,” pro-democracy lawmaker Albert Ho shouted at the bailiffs through a loudspeaker.

The court order affects only the immediate area around the skyscraper, leaving a long section of a multi-lane highway still under occupation, and filled with hundreds of colourful tents.

Protesters have been camped on three major Hong Kong thoroughfares since September 28, demanding that Beijing grants free leadership elections to the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Beijing has said it will allow a public vote to elect Hong Kong s next leader in 2017 — but it insists the candidates must be vetted by a loyalist panel, which the protesters say will ensure the election of a pro-Beijing stooge.

Tuesday s operation stems from the first of three injunctions sought by private companies and associations in a bid to shrink the protest areas.

Bus companies and taxi drivers  groups are pursuing two similar court orders to clear other blocked roads in the city, saying business has taken a heavy hit from weeks of traffic disruption.

A second injunction seeks the clearance of roads in the Mongkok district, home to the second-largest protest camp, while court proceedings are continuing over other parts of the main camp at Admiralty. The third protest site is in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay.

2014-11-18

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