Protesters defiant after High Court orders them to leave Mong Kok and Admiralty sites
Defiant protesters refused to budge from their occupied zones in Admiralty and Mong Kok yesterday despite court orders requiring them to leave.
The High Court granted three injunctions last night to transport groups and the owner of a commercial building. The orders do not cover the third occupied site, Causeway Bay.
Protesters noted their civil disobedience sit-ins were illegal in any case, and vowed to hold out until talks between the government and student leaders finally take place tonight.
"The injunctions will not scare me," electronics engineer Larry Choi, 28, said in Mong Kok. "I will wait for the outcome of the meeting to decide on my next step. If nothing emerges from the negotiations, I will stay on."
Marketing officer Heiman Chan, 25, said she had joined the Harcourt Road crowds almost every night after work since Occupy Central began on September 28. "It doesn't matter if one more offence is added," she said.
The injunctions were granted to a taxi drivers' group and a minibus operators' group against Mong Kok protesters, and to Goldon Investment, owner of the Citic Tower, which is next to the government headquarters in Admiralty.
If the occupiers failed to comply, the plaintiffs could seek an arrest warrant and ask bailiffs to enforce it, said Johnny Mok Shu-luen SC, representing the Taxi Association and Taxi Drivers and Operators Association.
Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, who is also a solicitor, did not expect the orders to be effective because the plaintiffs must first identify individual protesters, apply in court for the warrants and then return to the scene to make arrests. "You have to deal with the protesters one by one," he said.
Offenders could be held in contempt of court, lawyer Dennis Kwok said, but whether this would lead to a custodial sentence was uncertain. Even if a protester wanted to challenge the injunction, the present order would still be in effect until the court makes a ruling on their application, he said.
In a statement last night, the Federation of Students said it respected the court's decision, noting that it was meant to restore social order.
The federation asked protesters to carefully consider the legal consequences and decide for themselves whether to retreat or not. "But we won't take the initiative to retreat from Mong Kok ... We will shoulder our legal liability," the federation said. It also apologised to citizens affected by the occupation protests.
Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung said he believed every Occupy protester respected the rule of law. "Police have always wanted to clear, with or without the injunctions," he said. "The decision whether to leave or not is an individual one."
But he reiterated that anyone who wished to join the sit-in in Mong Kok should consider the legal consequences and advised those under the age of 18 not to take up positions on the front line.
People Power's Albert Chan Wai-yip told protesters in Mong Kok that his associates would get in touch with the Legal Aid Department to explore ways to appeal against the court order.
Earlier, protesters said they were pessimistic about the impending talks with the government and would not retreat from the rally sites unless their demands were met or the officials showed sincerity.
Office worker Tam Yin-ling, who is in her 50s, said: "This is the government's chance to show us that it's softening its attitude, that it's not just putting on an act and that it really wants to start listening to what we have to say."
In other developments, 391 pro-government or non-affiliated district councilors have signed a petition urging protesters to retreat from occupied sites. Five business chambers also issued a joint statement calling for an end to the occupations.
Meanwhile, New World First Bus and City Bus, which mainly operate on Hong Kong Island, said daily ridership had increased after some roads were reopened last week. But ridership was still 20 per cent, or 210,000 passengers a day, below normal.
Kowloon Motor Bus said it had made temporary arrangements to maintain bus services. The Transport Department said 226 bus routes were still affected.
Elizabeth Cheung, Alan Yu, Chris Lau, Samuel Chan, Peter So, Danny Mok, Thomas Chan, Joyce Ng, Timmy Sung