HSBC started to clear up the Occupy Central protest camp under its headquarters yesterday as a handful of protesters defied a court deadline for them to leave.
The bank said it had started clearing away the things left behind by protesters who had moved on after it received a writ of possession from the High Court, which ruled earlier this month that the protesters should leave after 10 months.
More than a dozen people refused to move yesterday. Protesters had staged a concert as the 9pm deadline passed on Monday and many vowed to stay until they were physically evicted.
Ho Yiu-shing, one of five defendants named in the bank's legal action, left yesterday morning, saying he respected the court's decision. His possessions, including a sofa and a few bookshelves, were removed in the afternoon.
An HSBC spokeswoman said the bank had helped three protesters remove their belongings after they chose to comply with the court's instructions.
The bank said it would work with the court bailiff on the timing and execution of the writ of possession - the removal of the remaining protesters - although it would be up to the bailiff to carry out the eviction.
Notices on the site yesterday told protesters that "repossession of the property will be set in motion" and that "any non-compliance … may subject them to sanction".
The possessions of the protesters who left voluntarily were removed while most of the other protesters were away. The remaining protesters returned when they heard of the removals but said none of their belongings were missing.
Although part of the bank complex, the area occupied by the protest camp has long been designated a public walkway, complicating the bank's eviction efforts.
Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said that if the occupiers refused to leave, the bank would have no power to forcibly move them. It would need to rely on the police, he said.
The police said they would closely monitor the situation, "take appropriate action in case of any breach of the peace" and support the work of the court bailiff if asked.
The Occupy Central anti-capitalist campaign started in October, inspired by Occupy Wall Street in New York. Its members condemned the "hegemony" of property developers and advocated residency rights for foreign domestic helpers.