HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong police vowed Tuesday to tear down more street barricades manned by pro-democracy protesters, hours after hundreds of officers armed with chainsaws and boltcutters partially cleared two major roads occupied for a fortnight.
In a concerted effort to reduce the territory held by protesters, police tore down barricades in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay and on the edge of the main protest encampment in Admiralty, near the city government’s headquarters.
They also vowed to target protester cordons in Mongkok, a working-class district known for its triad gangs where violence has previously broken out.
Huge crowds have intermittently rallied against China’s insistence that it will vet candidates standing for election as the semi-autonomous city’s next leader in 2017 – a move protesters have labelled as “fake democracy”.
While the activists have been praised for their civility and organisational skills, they have also brought widespread disruption to an already densely populated city.
Angry and sometimes violent scuffles have broken out between demonstrators and government loyalists, sparking accusations the authorities are using hired thugs to sow trouble.
Police had been keeping a low profile at the three main protest sites after a decision to fire tear gas at peaceful demonstrators on September 28 caused outrage and encouraged tens of thousands to take to the streets.
But in the last two days, officers have begun probing protester defences in raids aimed at opening some roads to traffic, while allowing the bulk of demonstrators to stay in place.
Around 150 police dismantled metal barricades at the Causeway Bay site before dawn Tuesday, freeing up traffic in one direction but leaving the protest camp there largely intact.