HSBC Holdings Plc asked protesters of the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong to leave the premises of its Asian headquarters after an eight-month stay, as similar groups in London and New York were evicted.
“In preparation for a number of community events in the plaza at the HSBC main building later in the year, we have formally asked the occupiers to vacate the area voluntarily,” Gareth Hewett, a spokesman of the lender, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “We continue to work with the authorities regarding the matter.”
Protesters for Occupy Wall Street, whose movement to highlight inequality spread to other cities globally, were evicted in November, and others in London were told to leave their Finsbury Square camp this month. In Hong Kong, protesters numbering about 50 at the peak have pitched tents and laid out couches as they played guitars, ran photography classes and read Chinese novels on the ground floor of HSBC’s building.
“We won’t leave,” Leung Wing-lai, a participant of Occupy Central, said by telephone. “HSBC didn’t give us a deadline on when we need to move out.”
Hong Kong is one of several Asian cities including Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo which have seen protests inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York spread to their streets last October.
The Hong Kong movement has had to share the space with long-standing demonstrators seeking compensation for the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.-linked structured notes they bought. On weekends, maids on their day off would also lay out mats in the same space to share meals, play cards and chat.
Jojo Wong, a 22-year-old saleswoman in a bookstore, said she drops by the site before and after work, helping to organize language and photography lessons for passersby.
“We don’t normally talk about sharing anymore in this capitalistic society, everything needs to be exchanged at a certain cost,” said Wong. “We don’t like this idea. That’s why we offer free music, books and lessons at the very heart of the financial center.”
The occupants have free classes scheduled until the end of next month, according to Leung.
A London authority won its court bid to evict protesters from the Finsbury Square camp on June 1, one of the last remaining in the city. Demonstrators from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan were evicted last November.
In a e-mailed response to questions yesterday, Hong Kong’s police department didn’t comment directly about its role in any eviction of protesters from HSBC’s premises.
“Police respect the rights of individuals to peaceful assemblies and to express their views” in a “peaceful and safe manner,” the department said in a statement. “In managing public order events, major considerations are public safety and public order.”