HONG KONG: Riot police moved in on a Hong Kong pro-democracy protest zone in a dawn raid on Friday, taking down barricades, tents and canopies that have blocked key streets for more than two weeks.
More than 100 police, some in helmets and shields, descended early morning at the busy district of Mong Kok, an offshoot protest zone across the Victoria Harbor from the main occupied area in the city's financial district.
Police surrounded about 30 protesters, who did not put up resistance. Officers used loudspeakers to tell protesters to leave the site, and there were no clashes between the two sides.
Officers swiftly tore down metal barricades, bamboo and wooden planks used by protesters to block off the streets, and much of the protest zone was cleared in about half an hour.
It was the third dawn operation by police to retake streets from protesters, who have taken over major roads and streets in the city center since Sept. 26 to press for a greater say in choosing Hong Kong's leader.
Tensions between the authorities and the protesters have escalated in the past few days as riot police armed with pepper spray and batons clashed with activists.
Hundreds of police, some armed with batons and pepper spray, pushed back protesters as they battled for control for a road near the city's government headquarters on Wednesday. Many in Hong Kong condemned police after officers were seen kicking a handcuffed protester and dragging dozens of others away.
Hong Kong's leader tried to soothe tensions with student-led democracy protesters Thursday by reviving an offer of talks.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Thursday the government is ready to meet with student leaders as soon as next week, but urged them to be pragmatic, reiterating that Beijing will not change its mind on election restrictions. That raised doubts that the proposed meeting can overcome the vast differences between the two sides.
Protesters oppose the Chinese central government's ruling that a committee stacked with pro-Beijing elites should screen candidates in the territory's first direct election. That effectively means that Beijing can vet candidates before they go to a public vote.