Hong Kong police yesterday vowed 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 two weeks.
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 labeled “fake democracy.”
While the activists have been praised for their civility and organizational 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 Sept. 28 caused outrage and encouraged tens of thousands to take to the streets.
However, in the past 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. About 150 police dismantled metal barricades at the Causeway Bay site before dawn yesterday, freeing up traffic in one direction, but leaving the protest camp there largely intact.
Hours later, another contingent of officers tackled barricades at the main Admiralty site, using chainsaws to slice through bamboo poles and freeing up one of the multi-lane highways in the district.
At both sites protesters put up little resistance, sticking to their promise of non-violence.
Some protesters were seen sobbing as police went to work dismantling the barricades.
“We are only residents and students,” one tearful young woman shouted at police. “We will leave, as we are unable to fight you, but we will not give up.”
Police insisted they would soon turn their attention to Mongkok.
A similar clearance operation on Monday at the edges of the Admiralty protest camp prompted activists there to swiftly regroup.
They laid down cement foundations and built up bamboo pole barricades blocking both lanes of a highway, using everything from steel chains to plastic cable ties and sticky tape to strengthen them — even enlisting sympathetic construction workers for help.
However, police yesterday cleared them in less than an hour.
STRATEGY TWEAK: Arrivals to Taiwan testing positive for COVID-19 are to be escorted to an ambulance via a special exit and hospitalized, the health minister said Starting today, arrivals on long-haul flights must wait for the results of COVID-19 tests before finishing airport entry procedures, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The center also reported six locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, possibly linked to the airport cluster, and 26 imported cases. As more than two dozen local COVID-19 cases have since Monday last week been reported among workers at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and their close contacts, as well as a few people likely linked to them, the center on Sunday said that entry quarantine procedures would be revised. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中),
SEARCH CONTINUES: The fighter jet disappeared from radar screens at 3:23pm, about 30 minutes after it took off, air force Major General Liu Hui-chien said Search-and-rescue teams yesterday searched for an air force pilot after his F-16V Block 20 jet went missing during an afternoon bombing exercise near the coastline of Chiayi County’s Dongshih Township (東石鄉), the air force said. The search continued as of press time last evening. The single-seat jet (serial number 6650) disappeared from radar screens at 3:23pm, about 30 minutes after it took off from Chiayi Air Base, air force Inspector General Major General Liu Hui-chien (柳惠千) told a news conference in Taipei. All F-16Vs are temporarily suspended from exercises pending the completion of emergency checks on the fleet, he said. The fighter piloted by
LUNAR NEW YEAR: The nation is expecting 4,200 international travelers to arrive today and 3,900 tomorrow, as people return home for the holidays, the CECC said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday said it expects imported cases of COVID-19 to further increase today and tomorrow — the peak period for international arrivals before the Lunar New Year holiday. The nation has seen more imported cases of COVID-19 since it implemented a new policy on Tuesday requiring travelers on long-haul flights to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival. Those who test positive are taken directly to hospitals from airports. Most of the recent confirmed cases of COVID-19 were travelers arriving from the US, CECC data showed. On Tuesday, 58 of the 625 travelers arriving at Taiwan
TRACEABLE: The expansion of a cluster infection appears to be slowing, as genome sequencing results show a clearer link among confirmed cases, Chen Shih-chung said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 96 COVID-19 infections: four domestic and 92 imported cases. Three of the domestically transmitted cases are bank workers likely linked to previously reported airport clusters, it added. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, attributed the high number of imported cases in part to the implementation on Tuesday of a tighter entry policy. Travelers arriving on long-haul flights are immediately tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and must wait for results of their rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on site. Those who test negative are allowed to proceed with normal