Hong Kong (CNN), November 26, 2014– Hong Kong student protest leaders Joshua Wong and Lester Shum were among those arrested amid heated confrontations as authorities attempted to clear demonstration camps in the Mong Kok district for a second day.
Wong, the 18-year old founder of the secondary school activist group Scholarism, and Shum, deputy secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, were arrested after police and bailiffs moved to clear barricades on Nathan Road in the bustling commercial area, a spokeswoman for the student federation told CNN.
By midday Wednesday, authorities had cleared barricades and tents from the long-established protest camp.
Prior to his arrest, Shum told CNN he urged protesters to remain on the streets until the “last second.”
“We will still conduct our civil disobedience action until the last second, until the plaintiffs or the police arrest us,” he said.
Bailiffs have been engaged to clear the Mong Kok protest camps in accordance with a court order obtained by local business interests, following complaints that the protests have disrupted life in parts of the city for nearly two months.
Police warned that anyone obstructing the bailiffs in their work would face charges of contempt of court or obstructing an officer.
Some protesters were seen assisting authorities in dismantling shelters, as police ordered demonstrators disperse and not to interrupt the clearance. Others were tackled to the ground and detained by police during the clearance efforts.
Night of clashes
The police action followed a night of heated clashes between police and protesters, after authorities attempted to clear another road in Mong Kok, Argyle Street, Tuesday.
As of 6am Wednesday morning Hong Kong time, 116 people had been arrested during the confrontation in Mong Kok, according to Alice Tam of the Police Public Relations Branch. Offenses included resisting police, illegal assembly, possession of weapons and attacking police.
Twenty police officers were injured in clashes, said Tam.
Lawmaker and pro-democracy activist Leung Kwok-hung, commonly known as “Long Hair,” was among those arrested, his office confirmed.
Tuesday’s clearance effort began peacefully, with some protesters indicating their intention to relocate to other protest camps peacefully. But events spiraled into violence as crowd numbers swelled, with police dressed in riot gear spraying liquid referred to by local media as “tear water” toward the crowd to drive them back.
Police warned protesters to retreat, displaying banners that read: “Stop charging, or we use force.”
As the situation Tuesday night escalated, activists issued calls on social media for reinforcements. The Hong Kong Federation of Students’ tweeted: “More support urgently needed in Mong Kok! Bring helmets, (goggles), shields, umbrellas, towels and be careful!”
As bailiffs announced their intention to clear the site Tuesday morning, protesters joined in chants calling for universal suffrage and demanding the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive, C.Y. Leung.
Prior to leaving on a trip to South Korea on Tuesday, Leung said he had confidence in police to handle the situation in Mong Kok and said the government remained willing to engage in dialogue on political reform.
Pro-democracy protesters have occupied camps in parts of the city for nearly two months, and maintain a main protest site outside government buildings in Admiralty on Hong Kong Island.
Calling for universal suffrage, they want to be able to nominate candidates for the election of the city’s chief executive in 2017. Instead, China’s National People’s Congress has said they’ll be able to vote only for candidates from a short list approved by a pro-Beijing committee.
Currently, the chief executive is elected by a specially appointed 1,200-member election committee.
At the peak of the protests in early October, tens of thousands of people were on the streets at three locations. But numbers have dwindled as the protests have continued, and recent local polling suggests support has dipped.
In a random survey of 513 people conducted by the University of Hong Kong, 83% said pro-democracy protesters should cease their occupation of major roads in Hong Kong, while just 13% said the protests should continue.
No plans to halt
Prior to his arrest, Shum told CNN there were no plans to give up the protests.
“The most urgent step is to revoke the August 31 NPC decision. The political reform problem starts from there,” he said, referring to the Chinese central government’s controversial decision to impose vetting restrictions on who could run as a candidate for Hong Kong’s top office.
“If the Chinese communist party refuses to, or the Hong Kong government does not reflect how Hong Kong people think, we urge them to deny the political reform bill in the Legislative Council and restart the whole political process again.”
He said the decision on whether to remain on the streets and face violence or arrest was each individual protester’s own to make.
“I believe it is a personal or individual decision, because everyone has different degrees of consequences that they have to face alone,” he said.
Source BBC News