Hong Kong Chief Declares End to Occupy as Last Site Gone

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Hong Kong’s leader declared the end of pro-democracy protests that blocked the city’s roads for more than 11 weeks, as police cleared the last demonstration site.

Cars and trams returned to areas of the popular Causeway Bay shopping district that had been taken over by protesters, after police officers dismantled barricades and took down tents. More than 10 demonstrators, including lawmaker Kenneth Chan, were taken away by police as they refused to leave and staged a sit-in.

“As the clearance of the occupy site in Causeway Bay finishes, the illegal movement in Hong Kong that has lasted for over two months has come to an end,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters today. “People should reflect and conclude on an important topic: What kind of democracy should Hong Kong be looking for?” He reiterated that discussion on electoral changes must be based on the Basic Law, the city’s de facto constitution.

The street protests were kick-started on Sept. 26 when student leaders stormed the premises of the government headquarters and drew as many as 100,000 people after the police used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators on Sept. 28. It became the biggest challenge to China’s rule over Hong Kong since it resumed sovereignty over the former British colony in 1997.

Smallest Site

Demonstrators had demanded China reverse its decision to vet chief executive candidates for city’s first leadership election in 2017 through a nominating committee, a mechanism the pro-democracy camp said will only select prospective leaders favored by Beijing.

The protest site in Causeway Bay has been the smallest since demonstrators started occupying key roads in the city. Police removed the roadblocks at the main Admiralty district protest site near the government offices with little interference on Dec. 11, after clearance of another site in Mong Kok resulted in some clashes in November. Some of the protesters who have put up tents outside the city’s legislative council have left voluntarily today upon calls by the Legco President’s Jasper Tsang to clear the area.

While the students gave up their tent cities without achieving their goal, they said their movement for democracy would continue and they will “take some actions” when the government starts the next round of public consultations on the electoral changes.

Police Investigation

Police will conduct an investigation of the protests, which they aim to complete in three months, Police Commissioner Andy Tsang told reporters.

Over the course of the demonstrations, police arrested 955 people, 130 police officers were injured and 221 protesters received medical treatment, while 1,972 people filed complaints about the police force’s handling of the occupy movement, Tsang said. Seventy-five people have surrendered to police, he said.

“The difficulty and complexity of this operation is unprecedented,” Tsang said. “In the coming days, police will strengthen deployment in various districts to maintain public order and safeguard public safety, so that all Hong Kong citizens can enjoy the festive seasons in Christmas and the New Year.”

Public support for the pro-democracy protests waned after weeks of traffic and business disruption, while disagreements over tactics grew among the protest leaders. About 68 percent of 513 people surveyed by the University of Hong Kong said the government should act to end the protests, according to a poll conducted Nov. 17-18.

The government will probably start the next round of consultations on the 2017 chief executive elections in January, Mingpao newspaper reported yesterday citing Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam.