Hong Kong protesters resist eviction from camp. Are more clashes to come?

With the help of tear gas, police cleared demonstrators from Argyle Street in the district of Mong Kok prior to a larger eviction set for Wednesday. Protesters say China is not fulfilling an earlier promise for democracy in Hong Kong.

Vincent Yu/AP
A pro-democracy protester is taken away by police officers as workers start clearing away barricades at an occupied area in Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Police in Hong Kong clashed with pro-democracy demonstrators on Tuesday in what became a protracted effort to clear them from one of several streets they have occupied for nearly two months.

Officers used tear gas at the end of a day in which they arrested 30 protesters, including maverick Hong Kong legislator Leung Kwok-hung, widely known by his nickname Longhair.

The action to empty less than 100 yards of Argyle Street in response to a court injunction was a dry run for both sides ahead of a much larger eviction planned for tomorrow.

Today’s events showed that a planned clearance Wednesday of nearby Nathan Road in the Mong Kok area of Kowloon may be more difficult and prolonged, and possibly more violent, than initially expected.

An internal poll conducted by the Occupy Central movement showed that a majority of its protesters would return home if asked. But there remains considerable sentiment in their ranks for more aggressive action.

The protests started in September and are a demand, particularly by students, for greater democracy and more say for Hong Kong people in running their own affairs than China’s government in Beijing has been willing to allow.

Nathan Road is the major commercial north-south thoroughfare running through Kowloon, the peninsula where the bulk of Hong Kong’s seven million people live. The road is lined by hotels, banks, fashion boutiques, and tourist-oriented shops. Student-led demonstrators are camped out along several blocks of the broad avenue, as they are at other sites – still awaiting clearance – on Hong Kong’s main island.

Tuesday’s evictions on nearby Argyle Street involved court bailiffs, uniformed officers and, eventually, riot police armed with pepper spray. No spray was seen used during the seven hours needed to clear an area that was shorter than a soccer field and about half as wide. No more than about 100 protesters were inside the area, but they grudgingly relented every foot of the way.

Shortly after 7 p.m., police fired tear gas to break up the crowd of protesters outside an upscale shopping complex. Protesters scattered when the spraying began, but when they got a block away they opened umbrellas to protect themselves against it. Umbrellas have become a symbol for these occupations since they were used as shields against pepper spray in the early days of the Occupy Central protests.

At different points during the day, protesters were vastly outnumbered by news media from around the world.

Violence erupted when the demonstrators and members of the media were confined into the final 20 yards of the street. It could not be determined whether protesters and police first clashed, or whether a fight broke out between the so-called Occupy forces and some of the anti-Occupy onlookers, many of them older and rougher-looking, who were increasingly mingling in the crowd as police squeezed the encampment.

The police have scheduled a two-day period for enforcing a court order to open the Nathan Road area. But the action today along a far smaller stretch required much of the day, with police still on hand into the night to clear away demonstrators, who made good on their threat to disperse into smaller adjacent streets and protest. The smaller streets were not included in an eviction court order that was read out both in Cantonese and in English.

The news media were also advised over bullhorns that they could be arrested if they interfered with the removal. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.