HONG KONG (AFP) – Hundreds of Hong Kong police Wednesday cleared a pro-democracy protest camp, arresting Joshua Wong and another student leader and reopening a main road blocked for almost two months.
Pushing back protesters, police with the help of workmen removed tents and other obstacles blocking the six-lane Nathan Road in Mongkok district.
It is seen as the most significant move so far in efforts to clear away protest camps at three separate locations in the city, as public sympathy with the demonstrators wanes.
Scuffles broke out earlier in the day as police wearing helmets and brandishing batons moved in to protect the workmen from the crowds that surged forward to try to stop them tearing down road barricades.
The operation went ahead a day after nearly 150 demonstrators were arrested as authorities cleared a smaller section of the Mongkok protest camp.
Hundreds of police quickly pushed protesters back, and removed wooden and metal barricades, tents and other obstructions along a 500-metre stretch of Nathan Road.
Around two hours after the operation started, only a handful of protesters remained at the edge of the site.
The movement’s student leaders Wong and Lester Shum were arrested at the scene, according o protest group Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students.
A well-known protester, Raphael Wong, a member of the League of Social Democrats party who was arrested along with the pair said on his Facebook page that they were being held at a police station.
“I am at the Kwai Chung police station, next to me is Joshua and Lester, we have been charged with contempt of court and obstructing public officers,” Wong wrote.
“It is possible we won’t get bail tonight and will be at a magistrates’ court tomorrow.”