Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) yesterday declared an end to more than 11 weeks of sit-in protests by pro-democracy demonstrators after police cleared the last remaining camp and arrested a handful of peaceful protesters.
A committed core of about a dozen demonstrators had staged a sit-in at the center of the final site in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay as police cut away barricades and tore down banners and shelters.
Seventeen people were arrested without resisting, with some shouting: “We will be back” and “Fight to the end.”
Trucks and cleaning teams moved in to remove debris, while roads around the site which have been closed for weeks were reopened.
Activists calling for free leadership elections occupied major traffic arteries in the territory after China said in August that candidates for the territory’s chief executive elections in 2017 would first be vetted by a loyalist committee.
Campaigners said the move would ensure the selection of a pro-Beijing leader.
Police demolished the movement’s primary protest camp last week.
“Following the completion of clearance work in Causeway Bay Occupy area, the episode of illegal occupation activities for more than two months is over,” Leung said.
He said that the demonstrations had led to “serious losses” in business sectors.
“Other than economic losses, I believe the greatest loss Hong Kong society has suffered is the damage to the rule of law by a small group of people,” he added.
Leung has been vilified by protesters, who cast him variously as a wolf and a vampire, and have asked for him to step down.
Beijing has backed his administration throughout the occupation.
“If we just talk about democracy without talking about the rule of law, it is not real democracy, but a state of no government,” Leung said.
Causeway Bay hosted the smallest of the three camps that developed in late September, paralyzing sections of the territory as part of the student-led campaign for free leadership elections.
The main Admiralty camp, which sprawled across a kilometer of multilane highway through the heart of the business district, was cleared on Thursday last week.
Police cleared the other major protest site in the working-class commercial district of Mong Kok — scene of some of the most violent clashes since the campaign began — late last month.
Students who spearheaded the street protests were among the sit-in group in Causeway Bay yesterday.
They were joined by a 90-year-old campaigner surnamed Wong who sat on a chair by the barricades and was later led away by police, walking slowly with a cane.
“I will let them arrest me,” he said. “We must do it regardless of whether we can achieve anything. We have to get back what they owe us.”
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