Police act on Hong Kong protests: Live Report

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Originally published by AFP on October 13, 2014

07:43 GMT – AFP IS CLOSING ITS LIVE REPORT on Hong Kong protests after a day that saw chaos erupt as dozens of masked men rushed barricades at the city’s main pro-democracy site triggering clashes with protesters, hours after police had moved in to remove some barriers.

Groups of men, many wearing surgical masks, descended on the front lines of the rally at Admiralty, while other angry anti-Occupy groups gathered demanding the demonstrators leave.

Police had removed some barricades at sites where pro-democracy demonstrators have been holding more than two weeks of rallies, allowing light traffic to move through some previously paralysed parts of the Chinese financial hub.

07:38 GMT – Mainland activists – More than 40 mainland Chinese have been detained in the last two weeks for supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, according to reports compiled by the US-based advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Rights group Amnesty International estimates that a further 60 activists have been questioned by police.

Among those held were a group of 10 artists in Beijing who had arranged a small gathering in support of the protests, according to lawyer Li Fangping.

They include poet Wang Zang who was detained after he posted a picture of himself online holding an umbrella, a symbol of the Hong Kong protests, his wife Wang Li told AFP.

Police had not stated any reason for the arrest, she said, adding that after she spoke to foreign media she and her young child were detained for around a day.

07:24 GMT – Cutting ribbons – Our colleague Benjamin Haas says a man had brought out a knife to cut yellow ribbons on Garden Road when students surrounded him with their arms up. Police arrived on the scene to speak to the man.

07:06 GMT – New standoffs – Pro-democracy protesters are adding new barricades in Admiralty as another anti-Occupy group arrives.

The group is seen advancing towards barriers manned by democracy protesters, with one side shouting “Return the road to us” and the other responding with “Return democracy to us”.

07:03 GMT – ‘Paid thugs’ – “The government wants Hong Kong people to fight each other. That’s how they want to win, Angela Li tells our colleague Benjamin Haas in Admiralty. “All the people using violence and causing trouble are paid thugs.”

06:42 GMT – Not stepping down – Earlier today, Hong Kong’s embattled leader Leung Chun-ying told reporters in the Chinese city of Guangzhou that he will not step down in face of ongoing pro-democracy protests.

“I will not step down, and there is no need for me to step down,” he said on the sidelines of a trade meeting.

“No matter who is the chief executive, they must push for universal suffrage according to the Basic Law and the NPC standing committee. This has nothing to do with who it is,” Leung adds.

06:41 GMT – Taxi drivers protest – Taxi drivers, many of whom have voiced frustration with more than two weeks of protests which have blocked roads and caused traffic gridlock, have converged in Admiralty in their cars, beeping horns and shouting at demonstrators.

Some has “We can’t take it any more” printed on the fronts of their cabs.

An AFP photographer says police have formed a line in front of the anti-Occupy protesters as trucks with cranes arrive on the scene and begin removing barricades.

06:27 GMT – Triad gangs – This is not the first time triad gangs have been accused of involvement.

Last week there were accusations from demonstrators and lawmakers that triad gangs were used in violent attacks on pro-democracy protesters by aggressive counter demonstrators in two busy shopping districts.

The police and the government were forced to deny that they had worked with criminals.

06:00 GMT – Police cordon – Pro-democracy demonstrators are standing firm as dozens of men wearing surgical masks descend on Admiralty.

Police struggle to contain the chaos as the masked men rush barricades and protesters try to guard the barriers and push the men back.

Two of the men are tackled to the ground by police, who have also formed a cordon around the masked group as protesters shout: “Weapons! Weapons!” and “Arrest the triads”.

05:59 GMT – Angry officer – Police seem to have restored some measure of order, but one angry woman police officer in plain clothes was seen having a heated argument with a pro-democracy protestor.

05:50 GMT – Pro-government groups – Pro-government protesters are marching towards Admiralty, as police escort the group of several hundred. They shout “Open the road!” as they punch their fists into the air.

Our reporters on the ground are seeing hordes of masked men, allegedly pro-government protesters, attempting to remove barricades in Central’s Charter Garden. Police are seen tackling at least two masked men to the ground as many more walk towards Admiralty.

Occupy protesters have formed a line of defence in Admiralty as a horde of taxis advanced in the area, sounding their horns in front of barricades.

05:49 GMT – Masked men – Demonstrators are clashing with dozens of masked men at main protest site at Admiralty

04:36 GMT – “Strangle us” – “I’ve been sleeping here for ten days, the police can’t scare me,” protestor Ezra Leung tells AFP in Admiralty.

“They’ll move in a little more each day to try to strangle us, but I’ll protect this place.”

03:42 GMT – Police relaxed – Our colleague Benjamin Haas says the main Admiralty protest site is still intact. About a dozen police officers are now stationed at each barricade, but they seem very relaxed, with some seen laughing, but mostly ignoring protesters.

Haas speaks to Kelly Cheung and Yabee Wong, who were woken up this morning by shouts from fellow protesters warning the police were moving the barriers.

“I wasn’t even sad or disappointed when I saw the police moving in,” Cheung, 24, says in Admiralty. “I’ve already lost all faith in the government and the police. There’s nothing else they can do to make things worse.”

“The police are preparing to ambush us,” Wong says. “They’ll wait until we’re all tired one day and move in.”

02:59 GMT – Mong Kok site – The smell of incense fills the air as protesters make offerings to the small altar dedicated to the Chinese deity Guan Yu at one of the Mong Kok barricades.

My colleague Aaron Tam reports seeing a small police presence in Mong Kok and protesters are busy erecting new barricades made of wooden planks and bamboo poles.

“(Police) say they are only trying to restore traffic and they have no intention to remove us, which is totally nonsense,” Gary Tsang tells Tam.

“If we are really hurting the economy then the government has to back down, not the protesters. This is the whole point of the movement,” Tsang says, adding that Mong Kok protesters have no plans to leave.

03:25 GMT – Summary of events – Here is a brief summary of events over the last few days.

Speaking on local television Sunday Hong Kong’s embattled leader Leung Chun-ying said the protesters have an “almost zero chance” of changing Beijing’s stance and securing free elections.

Leung also said the street protests had “spun out of control,” but added that if the government had to clear the protests sites, police would use a “minimum amount of force.”

This came after police were criticised for unleashing tear gas on the rallies in late September.

Demonstrators are calling for Beijing to grant full democracy to the former British colony and have paralysed parts of Hong Kong, prompting clashes with elements who oppose the blockades and widespread disruption.

China announced in August that while Hong Kongers will be able to vote for Leung’s successor in 2017, only two or three vetted candidates will be allowed to stand — an arrangement the protesters dismiss as “fake democracy.”

02:33 GMT – Protesters defiant – Protesters have remained defiant in the face of increased police action, with many saying they will not leave.

“I think they are moving closer so they can more easily clear this area later,” says Tammy Yip, referring to the advancing police tape.

“Never trust the police. I’ve been hit by tear gas too many times to trust them.”

Yip, who has been sleeping at the barricades on Connaught Road since Friday, after the government cancelled talks with students, tells AFP she will stay there throughout the day.

Albert Au, a demonstrator at the junction near the Chief Executive’s offices in Admiralty, says it will be difficult for police to clear the site anytime soon as long as protesters stay on.

“I think what (the police) are doing is testing the waters and exhausting protesters’ energy. This is now the time when the people’s determination will be tested,” says the 54-year-old.

02:22 GMT – Umbrella Movement – Some demonstrators in Admiralty early this morning have been seen wielding umbrellas, which have become emblematic of the Hong Kong movement, to guard against any police pepper spray.

“I’m angry because this umbrella movement belongs to the Hong Kong students. The police (should not be) our enemy but our friends,” Kim Kwan, a 21-year-old student, tells AFP.

02:10 GMT – Traffic resumes – Police have set up a cordon with plastic tape and had been moving it closer and closer to protesters on Connaught Road, one of the main protest areas in Central that had been blocked by protesters for the past two weeks.

According to a policeman AFP spoke to, the tape is to demarcate lanes for traffic to start moving there.

AFP reporter Benjamin Haas says traffic is picking up on Connaught Road, which was cleared early this morning.

An old man sat down in the middle of the road for about two minutes, but was later convinced to go back to the barrier.

Police on the scene no longer have helmets or gas masks on their belts, Haas reports.

01:55 GMT – Last line of defense – AFP reporter Benjamin Haas speaks to protester Cherry Yuen as she sits in front of metal barricades just 50 metres from police lines in Central.

“This is the last line of defense for the people near the government offices,” Yuen tells AFP. “The police just want to trick us again. We won’t move and I’m ready to get arrested.”

Yuen was arrested on July 2, 2014 during another pro-democracy sit-in in Central on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.

01:35 GMT – Government property – Our reporters on the ground are seeing hundreds of police stationed in Central, with many more police vans arriving.

AFP videographer Richard Sargent says a police negotiator at a barricade in Central has asked protesters to stay calm, stay where they are and that the police clearance will be over soon.

The policewoman adds that they are not clearing the site, only getting back government property.

A defiant protester replies over a megaphone that government property is their property too and asks other demonstrators to hold firm at the barricade.

01:29 GMT – ‘Leave the scene’ – At least two dozen police vans are parked close to Admiralty and police are also gathering at a secondary site in Mong Kok. Protesters, some of whom had been sleeping in tents, have remained at the site.

“Police urge protesters to listen to the advice of the police, not to obstruct the police action, to remove obstacles blocking the roads as soon as possible, and to leave the scene in a peaceful and orderly manner,” police tell protesters on-site via megaphones.

The police are dressed in high-visibility jackets but not wearing riot gear.

01:04 GMT – Police statement – Police issued a statement this morning announcing the removal of barricades.

“At about 5.30am today, police started the removal of obstacles at the periphery of protests in Central and Mong Kok, with the aim of relieving traffic congestions and reducing the chance of traffic accidents,” the statement released on the government website in Chinese says.

“Police are not clearing protest sites.”

It says barricades in Central’s Des Voeux Road and Chater Road areas, as well as Mong Kok’s Argyle Street and Shanghai Street areas have aready been removed.

“Police action in the Central area is ongoing, while those in Mong Kok have been completed,” the statement adds.

00:57 GMT – WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT ON Hong Kong’s ongoing democracy protests as police early Monday start removing street barricades erected more than a fortnight ago.

Police had started moving in to clear barriers at the edges of the main protest site in Admiralty, catching some demonstrators unawares after their numbers had dwindled overnight.


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