Mong Kok Cleared; Fractures Widen Among Protesters

Update: 9:00 am PST, 11/25: After the initial clearance of protest sites in Mong Kok, scuffles broke out between police and protesters as some refused to leave. More than 80 protesters were detained. From the South China Morning Post:

Up to 4,000 police officers were deployed in Mong Kok by Tuesday night, swelling from the 3,000 earlier in the day to assist bailiffs remove barricades from the Mong Kok protest under a court injunction.

Police deployed pepper spray to break up crowds of protesters in Mong Kok on Tuesday evening, as police confirmed eighty people had been arrested by 8pm during scuffles with police after a court-ordered clearance operation.

Shortly after 7pm, police officers fired a pepper-spray based solution from a cannon mounted on a moving raised platform at scores of protesters who gathered in Portland Street, outside Langham Place.

Protesters retreated as police began to spray them, but they soon turned around and unfurled their umbrellas in a stand-off. [Source]


For up-to-the-minute updates, check the SCMP.

Original Post: 23:30, PST, 11/24: Bailiffs have cleared part of the Mong Kok protest site, almost two months after the protests started. Police assisted court bailiffs in dismantling barricades several days after they did the same at the other major protest site in Admiralty. Samuel Chan, Ernest Kao, and Chris Lau report for the South China Morning Post:

The 20-man “removal team” cleared the juction of Argyle Street and Nathan Road in just 45 minutes. They cut the plastic cordons, tape and strong adhesives that held the barricades in place, and confiscated wooden pallets, fencing and umbrellas.

With the barricades cleared at around 11.15am, the bailiffs breached the protest zone and moved to dismantle remaining tents.

Police officers, deployed to assist the bailiffs if necessary, formed a line at the intersection to prevent demonstrators from re-occupying the area. Minutes later, some officers, yelling “Open the road”, began pushing back protesters in an apparent attempt to clear a passage for debris to be carried away to a waiting truck.

[…] “I’m confident our people won’t clash with [the police]. But I can’t say the same for the other side,” said protester Zero Lam Tat-wing, adding that he believed many protesters would return to retake the streets, in a different area, if the Argyle Street camp is dismantled. Several tents still remain in the zone. [Source]

See images from the clearance below.

The clearing of Mong Kok comes as the protest movement as a whole faces a number of questions about what direction it will now turn, with public support declining and some leaders ready to turn themselves in to the police. More radical groups within the movement are urging supporters to stay on the streets to press their demands, which include, first and foremost, electoral reforms to account for full universal suffrage in the election of chief executive. Chris Buckley and Alan Wong of the New York Times interview Wong Yeung-tat, the leader of Civic Passion, whose members were involved with an attack on the Legislative Council building last week:

While not advocating violence, Mr. Wong scorned the democratic politicians who condemned an attack on the city’s Legislative Council last week that shattered two windows as well as the mainstream movement’s carefully nurtured ethos of peaceful disobedience. The politicians, he said, betrayed “those who carry out actual struggles.”

He said two of the 11 people arrested in the attack were members of Civic Passion, which claims several hundred committed members and a larger following online, where Mr. Wong’s speeches are posted.

“The moderates are still the majority, but Civic Passion and groups like them have a big influence on the Internet and among the youth,” said Lam Hong-ching, a Hong Kong media commentator who has written a history of political protest in the city. “I think there’ll be more and more conflict between the two sides.” [Source]

While students leaders were denied permission to travel to Beijing to press their demands, Chinese authorities may be considering moderating plans for the nominating committee to select candidates for the chief executive position, according to a report by Chester Yung and Charles Hutzler in the Wall Street Journal:

Advisers and officials in Beijing are focusing on the nominating committee that will select candidates running for Hong Kong’s chief executive post in 2017, according to this person with knowledge of the matter. They are considering adjusting the committee’s makeup to better represent the city’s population, in particular the pro-democracy camp, while still giving Beijing control of the election process, the person said.

[…] The nominating committee is dominated by pro-business and pro-Beijing groups that protesters say don’t represent the city’s residents. Hong Kong officials have already floated the idea of modifying the makeup of the committee to bring in other sectors of society, such as more pro-democracy advocates, and to make the process more transparent.

But Beijing’s consideration of the changes is potentially significant. Student protest leaders have tried to take their case directly to Beijing, arguing that the city’s government was taking its cues from there. Several tried to go to Beijing recently but failed to make it through security at Hong Kong’s airport. [Source]

Yet Beijing has also used its diplomatic muscle to show that it will not tolerate any public support for the protesters. After British member of Parliament Richard Graham spoke out in defense of the protests during a Westminster debate, the Chinese embassy demanded that he make a statement “clarifying his thinking,” and denied his visa for a visit to China by several MPs, according to a report by Nicholas Watt in the Guardian. In response, the MPs called off the trip altogether.

See below for images from the clearance of Mong Kok, from Twitter:

Read more about the ongoing Hong Kong protest movement, from CDT.