Hong Kong protests: Police remove more barricades

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Media captionBarricades that took protesters hours to build were dismantled by the police in a matter of minutes, as John Sudworth reports

Hundreds of police have used chainsaws and bolt-cutters to dismantle barricades put up by pro-democracy activists near the government offices in Hong Kong.

They also re-opened a main thoroughfare in Causeway Bay, a shopping district.

It is the second day of operations which police say are to ease traffic disruption, not clear the protesters.

Demonstrators have occupied parts of Hong Kong for more than two weeks.

The activists, a mix of students and a pro-democracy group called Occupy Central, are demanding a fully democratic election in 2017.

China, which has control over Hong Kong, says residents can vote - but it will vet which candidates are eligible to stand.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protesters reinforced their barricades after the first removal operation on Monday

On Monday, scuffles broke out between those opposed to the Occupy movement and demonstrators after police removed some barricades in Central district.

Men wearing surgical masks charged at the barricades and tried to remove them.

In a similar clash at the protest site in Mong Kok 10 days ago police said some of those involved had triad backgrounds.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho told AFP news agency on Monday that this was "one of the tactics used by the communists in mainland China from time to time. They use triads or pro-government mobs to try to attack you so the government will not have to assume responsibility".

Later on Monday protesters reinforced their barricades, building bamboo barriers and cement foundations.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Stores in the busy shopping area of Causeway Bay have been hit by the protests

On Tuesday, police arrived with bolt cutters, chainsaws and sledgehammers. Local media said they were using the chainsaw to cut through the bamboo barriers.

"To ensure public safety and maintain public order, police have to take necessary action to remove the barriers at the occupied spots so that traffic can be partially resumed," police said in a statement.

Some protesters were visibly distressed. "We are only residents and students," one protestor shouted according to AFP. "We will leave as we are unable to fight you but we will not give up."

At the start of the protests last month thousands of people were on the streets, with hundreds sleeping there overnight. However, numbers have dwindled in recent days.

Over the weekend, Hong Kong's embattled leader CY Leung said the protestors had zero chance of changing Beijing's mind on constitutional reform.

He added that the protest movement had spun out of control.

Hong Kong democracy timeline

  • 1997: UK gives Hong Kong back to China under a 1984 agreement giving it "a high degree of autonomy" for 50 years
  • 2004: China says it must approve any changes to Hong Kong's election laws
  • June-July 2014: Pro-democracy activists hold an unofficial referendum on political reform. Both sides hold large rallies
  • 31 August 2014: China says it will allow direct elections in 2017 but will pre-approve candidates
  • 22 September 2014: Student groups launch a week-long boycott of classes
  • 28 September 2014: Occupy Central and student protests join forces and take over central Hong Kong
  • 2017: Direct elections for chief executive due to take place

Q&A: Hong Kong's democracy controversy

Image copyright AP
Image caption Stores in the busy shopping area of Causeway Bay have been hit by the protests