Hong Kong protesters show little resistance as bailiffs remove barriers in Admiralty

Officials enact court injunction to remove barriers blocking access to Citic Tower

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 November, 2014, 9:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 November, 2014, 3:03am

Bailiffs successfully cleared a section of the Occupy Central camp in Admiralty this morning as protesters put up little resistance to the enactment of a court order to remove barricades blocking access to Citic Tower.

Protesters began packing up their tents voluntarily at around 8am, following an order by Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung that police officers could remove or arrest people who insisted on breaching the injunction.

The clearance began at 9.30am, when a bailiff and a Citic Group representative took to Lung Wui Road to tell protesters to go and take their belongings with them.

Watch: Occupy Central protesters show little resistance as bailiffs remove barriers in Admiralty

“People should immediately pack their stuff and leave,” the bailiff said, via megaphone.

Anyone who violated the court order could face contempt of court, she added.

With the police watching on, bailiffs began removing barriers at around 10am.

As the operation began, some protesters took down barricades before bailiffs could get to them. They then carried the metal barriers to the main Occupy site on Tim Mei Avenue.

Meanwhile, a stand-off developed when Citic’s lawyer insisted on clearing barricades placed around the junction between Lung Wui Road and Tim Mei Avenue.

But Democratic lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan argued that cars could enter and exit the tower with only half of the roundabout open to traffic.

Since Tim Mei Avenue on the Legislative Council side is still blocked, there is no point in removing barricades that open up the entire roundabout, Ho contended.

Citic’s counsel eventually agreed, adding that he did not intend to clear the junction of Tim Mei Avenue and Harcourt Road today.

“I am relieved. At least there won’t be more conflicts today,” Ho said.

“Because there are still many students on that side, a conflict would be hard to avoid.”

The lawmaker said the ambiguity stemmed from the “wide terms” of the court injunction.

Ho said the bailiffs were trying to send a message to protesters in Mong Kok, showing them how they would carry out another court order to remove barricades at the Occupy site there.

Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said that the government should seek a political solution to end the protests, rather than relying on the courts.

“The government should not hide behind the court, to use the court to issue a civil injunction,” he said. “There should a political solution that is negotiated without using the police.”

He echoed protesters in saying he did not understand why Citic Tower staff and bailiffs wanted to clear Tim Mei Avenue, and called for an explanation.

Lee said that protesters showed restraint.

“So it’s very clear that we want to cooperate. At the same time, we want real democracy,” he said.

Scholarism expressed their disappointment over the bailiffs' clearance, accusing them of clearing a wider area than the court suggested.

The student group's founder Joshua Wong Chi-fung said Citic Group wanted unobstructed access for vehicles to the tower. "They have achieved their goal," he said.

He said the court and police seemed to be using the court order to "clear more tents as soon as possible".

He said objects, including tents, on the left of the Citic Tower car park exit blocked neither the normal entrance nor emergency exit of the building. However, bailiffs indicated on a graphic that it was among the area they intended to clear.

Member Tommy Cheung Sau-yin hoped the lawyer and bailiffs could provide a floor plan, as well as detailed instructions on how they would carry out further removal.

Asked if they were worried that student tents would be cleared tomorrow, the duo said they would have a meeting with other protesters tonight.

The injunction was requested by Goldon Investment, the joint-venture controlled by the Chinese state-owned Citic Group which owns the 33-storey tower.

The court order comes as democracy protest sit-ins enter their eighth week in Hong Kong, and some roads in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay remain covered with tents and artwork in defiance of previous court injunctions.

Justice Au reasoned that the protesters had blocked the car park entrance to Citic Tower and two fire exits. “This has exposed the occupants of Citic Tower to a serious risk of safety as important escape routes have been denied to the occupants,” the ruling read. The judge also said that the company had lost income from renting out parking space there.

A police source said the force would later this week help bailiffs clear blockades in Mong Kok where similar injunctions have been issued.

Previous clearance attempts by police in riot gear have failed. The injunction against democracy protesters in Kowloon had been requested by Chiu Luen Public Light Bus and two representatives of the Hong Kong Taxi Association and the Taxi Drivers and Operators Association, Lau Hoi- ping and Tam Chun-hung.

Justice Au also said he would hand down a decision as soon as possible on a third clearance application from two bus companies on Hong Kong Island.

The injunction request was made by Kwoon Chung Motors and All China Express, which are subsidiaries of Kwoon Chung Bus. They seek the removal of blockades on Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road and Cotton Tree Drive.

Chris Lau, Alan Yu, Eddie Lee