Hong Kong Protesters Prepare for Police Clearance

Following the partial clearance by court bailiffs and police of the major protest sites in Hong Kong, some protesters have remained in recent weeks. Student protest leader Joshua Wong ended a planned hunger strike after five days, but has continued to join the protests and to call for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, which earned him a spot on Time Magazine’s Person of the Year poll. Now, court bailiffs and police say they will clear the remaining protest camps this Thursday and have warned remaining protesters to leave before then. From Alan Wong at the New York Times:

On Tuesday afternoon, bailiffs put up notices across a long stretch of the main site, where protests began in late September against election restrictions imposed by the Chinese legislature on the next vote for Hong Kong’s leader in 2017. The notices asked that people not “prevent or obstruct normal vehicular traffic from passing” in the areas. Mr. Cheung said that offenders could be prosecuted for contempt of court.

In the areas designated in the court injunction, which cover only a small part of the whole protest site near the government offices, the clearance will be carried out by representatives of the applicant for the order, a bus company, and when necessary the bailiffs and the police, Mr. Cheung said. After assisting bailiffs to enforce the injunction, he said, the police will remove roadblocks in the adjacent areas, including those on sidewalks. RTHK, a local public broadcaster, reported that a total of 7,000 police officers would be deployed on Thursday.

The police will use a level of force proportionate to the level of the protesters’ resistance, the police spokesman said, adding that people should avoid going to the area on Thursday “unless it is absolutely necessary.” [Source]

While protests over the past ten weeks have been largely peaceful, with only rare outbreaks of violence, some protesters are saying they will resist the clearance. Student groups and Occupy Central have been the dominant groups organizing the demonstrations so far, but other groups advocating more radical protests are beginning to form and become more vocal. Donny Kwok reports for Reuters:

Splinter protest groups calling for democracy for Hong Kong are springing up and fast-tracking action plans, with activists split between those vowing to stay and those wanting to leave.

At their peak, the rallies drew more than 100,000 after police fired tear gas at the largely student-led demonstrators, stoking public outrage. But protracted disruptions to traffic and some small businesses have since sapped public support.

On Tuesday, the site remained quiet, filled mainly with visitors taking photographs. Some tents carrying supplies and other stockpiles of food and medication were moved, but some protesters said they wouldn’t back down.

“This station and the volunteers are forming a defense line,” said Mani Chan, who was helping man a supply station. “We’re going to stay anyway.” [Source]

Protesters are debating their next move, and while some want to stay and resist the police action, others are hoping to shift the movement into a new phase and find other ways to put pressure on the government. Julie Makinen reports for the Los Angeles Times:

“Clearance is tantamount to political suppression, and the police are being used as a political tool,” Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said Tuesday. “The government might think this is the political solution, yet the political time bomb will still be ticking.”

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Tuesday that “in carrying out police operations, including clearance operations and the removal of barricades, minimal force has been used. And I believe it will be the same in future police operations.”

A person who identified himself as a representative of a shadowy new group called Student Front told local broadcaster RTHK on Tuesday that members of his organization would not rule out meeting whatever level of force the police might deploy with a similar level of resistance “to protect ourselves.” [Source]

One group called Civic Passion, which participated in the attack on the Legislative Council building last month, is employing a tactic aimed at influencing mainland tourists in Hong Kong, according to a report by Donny Kwok and Lizzie Ko in Reuters:

Clashes between protesters and police increased after the clearance of protest sites in the densely populated working-class district of Mong Kok district, on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong harbor. One man was jailed for six months on Monday for threatening to burn Mong Kok demonstrators with paint thinner, media said.

Since the Mong Kok violence, Civic Passion has started a trend dubbed “shopping revolution”, in which between 50 and 200 protesters gather in Mong Kok stores which are hugely popular with mainland Chinese.

Joe Ling, 26, said he would continue to “shop” to send a message to mainland tourists.

“If we continue this, they can see it, and they’ll take these memories back to the mainland, and I think this is necessary,” Ling said. [Source]

For the New York Times’ Sinosphere blog, Chris Buckley and Alan Wong spent a day in the Admiralty protest site, talking with protesters who were feeling nostalgic while anticipating Thursday’s clearance:

On Tuesday night, thousands of people were coursing through the Admiralty protest camp, snapping pictures and snapping up mementos. And most popular of all were the yellowish bracelets that a team of volunteers has been making and handing out for free as an ordinary-looking souvenir of an extraordinary time.

Hundreds queued up to get one, and one of the volunteers making them, Alex Yung, said they had already given out about 500 that evening. He said he also understood, and shared in, the desire to hoard memories from the past two and more months of tumult.

[…] The group made the bracelets from imitation leather and metal eyelets and hooks bought with money donated by members and supporters, he said. He said that the group started making the bracelets for student protesters, and then discovered that many other people wanted them. He described his own work as a kind of penance.

“Most of us are in our 30s and 40s,” he said. “We were the generation that just focused on money or careers, and we’ve left it to this younger generation to fight for broader things, for society.” [Source]

Read more about the Hong Kong protest movement, which has been actively occupying various encampments in Hong Kong since late September, with dwindling numbers in recent weeks.