Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Hong Kong police swooped at dawn to clear barricades in Mong Kok, one of the stronghold of protest movement led by students and Occupy Central against the government of the Territory.
Although the basic operation was peaceful, there were moments of great tensions. Agents used pepper spray and formed human cordons to keep away groups of demonstrators, allowing heavy vehicles to remove roadblocks.
At present, the southbound lane of Nathan Road is blocked with dozens of protesters refusing to leave. "I am staying here to protect those still staying behind," said Candy Chan, 38, who trades used appliances and electronics, and has been occupying the Mong Kok site since 29 September. "I want to fight for my children. I want them to have true democracy. I am getting old so it doesn't matter to me."
In Central (District), Hong Kong's central business district, some 30 people and 25 tents remained at the protest site at Yee Wo Street in Causeway Bay this morning. Demonstrators are peaceful and "If the police come to clear our site, I will just ask them to give me some time to pack my stuff," said protester Angel Szeto.
For almost three weeks, the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement has occupied some central areas in Hong Kong, demanding full democracy for the territory.
In 2004, Beijing promised democratic elections for 2017. At the end of last August, China's National People's Congress decided that Hong Kongers would be able to vote for a new chief executive; however, the existing functional constituencies would remain and Beijing reserved the right to choose who and how many candidates would run for the post of chief executive.
The long sit-in by students and pro-democracy groups is in opposition precisely to the conditions set by China. At the same time, protesters have been calling on Leung to resign for his inability to represent the city's wishes vis-à-vis Beijing.
Yesterday Leung himself announced that his government would open a channel of communication with the protesters, but stressed that their demands for democratic political reform would never be accepted.
The Federation of Students and the group Scholarism, which have led the school strike and street demonstrations, have yet to confirm whether they would take part in the talks after the eviction of Mong Kok.
The first round of talks was in fact cancelled on 9 October after police cracked down violently on demonstrators with the latter's pledging to continue their occupation of the city.
Things appear quieter now. "We need to talk and someone has to be at the bargaining table, be it the students or someone else," said Andy Fong, who's seeking to reclaim the cleared space in Mong Kok. "I won't stay if the police is clearing out the protesters. I don't want to be arrested."
"We are willing to talk but the government of C.Y. Leung should not say they want to talk and also clear the sites," said Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. "I don't know what trick the government plans to use, but we are not afraid and will keep fighting for democracy."
Talks are meaningless unless "there is some concession from the central government or the Hong Kong government," said a sceptical Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Labour Party.