Occupy Central camp in Admiralty goes down quietly as police move in
No resistance as workers backed by 7,000 police clear out community that lasted 75 days, and hardcore protesters wait patiently to be arrested
The occupied site in Admiralty was cleared without resistance or any visible scuffles yesterday in a police operation that was described by a watchdog as "smooth and peaceful".
Last night, authorities were still working to return blocked roads to the way they were in late September before the "umbrella movement" for democracy erupted.
The colourful tents that once lined Harcourt Road - the busiest in the city centre - the creative banners and artworks that enlivened the space, the assorted chairs and beds, and the people who were behind it all - were gone after a day-long operation by police and bailiffs.
Among items torn down was a banner newly erected on road barriers that read: "It's just the beginning". Protesters released balloons lifting a banner that read: "We'll be back".
Unlike the first clearance of Occupy, launched in Mong Kok last month, the Admiralty operation went ahead without brawls or bloodshed.
As many as 7,000 police officers were reportedly deployed yesterday.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor praised the police action for its "high-level transparency" that would avoid any "misunderstanding" or "smearing".
Lam Tai-fai, lawmaker and vice-chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council, also said the peaceful turn of events meant a "soft landing" for the end of the Occupy action.
"[We saw] no clashes, not even verbal arguments between police and protesters," he said. "Overall, it was peaceful and all had been restrained. We are glad to see the way it ended."
Lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan, who was in Admiralty with Lam Tai-fai from 8am, also said she felt protesters were given enough time to pack and leave.
But arrests of protesters who refused to budge did not end until 9.10pm. A total of 247 people were arrested.
Many had pledged to take full responsibility for their civil disobedience in the fight for democracy. Seven hours before the arrests began at 4.20pm, all were already seated calmly, chatting and laughing with one another from time to time.
The first to be arrested was believed to be a female student. Female officers read her the legal rights before carrying her away.
Political heavyweights Martin Lee Chu-ming and Audrey Eu Yuet-mee also lingered around for the arrests, as did celebrity singer Denise Ho Wan-see, pan-democratic lawmakers and student leaders.
Ho led the crowd in chanting: "Civil disobedience, we are fearless!" Unlike the other people arrested, she refused to be lifted off her feet, walking instead to a police car with two officers amid cheers from the crowd.
The clearance ended the 75-day lifespan of a vibrant community equipped with a supply station, study area, workshop and first-aid centre.
The operation started officially at 9am, when about 50 workers, several bailiffs and lawyer Paul Tse Wai-chun - representing company All China Express - descended on the site and notified protesters about their enforcement of a High Court injunction granted to the cross-border bus operator.
Tse warned protesters that resistance would leave them liable to contempt of court.
The workers then started the demolition process, breaking the cement that glued barriers to the road surface at four locations.
It took much longer than expected for the bailiffs to finish clearing the areas covered by the court order - Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road and Cotton Tree Drive - by which time it was about 1pm.
Police then took charge of clearing the remaining four-fifths of the occupied site.
Senior superintendent Patrick Kwok Pak-chung issued an ultimatum for the remaining occupiers to leave before officers sealed off the area - from the Academy for Performing Arts to Connaught Road Central next to the Hong Kong Club - at 2.20pm.
More than 900 people who left voluntarily after that time - via a designated exit at Tim Mei Avenue - had to give their personal details to police for possible prosecution later.
At 2.20pm, uniformed officers began to march towards the core occupied area of Harcourt Road from the directions of Wan Chai, Central and Tim Mei Avenue. None of the men were heavily equipped, except for a special squad tasked with dismantling the more complicated barriers.
The only resistance they met was from a man who refused to budge from the Harcourt Road flyover. He was arrested and his hands bound with plastic ties.
Everything that the protesters once treasured, but was in the way of the officers, was eventually crane-lifted onto trucks. At one point last night, at least 10 trucks were working to remove the materials.
Police toppled a three-metre-long yellow umbrella installation - the symbol of the movement - and used saws and cutters to break it up into pieces.
And in just a few minutes, a supply station and workshop that was once covered by another yellow umbrella was reduced to a pile of debris.
As the officers walked towards the bridge next to the Admiralty Centre, they shoved aside abandoned tents, upturned desks and chairs and threw away anything left unattended.
Samuel Chan, Phila Siu, Emily Tsang, Elizabeth Cheung, Alan Yu and Danny Lee
How a newspaper commentary unfolded into months of protest
January 16 University of Hong Kong legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting raises idea of Occupy Central civil disobedience in newspaper commentary
March 27 Tai, the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming of Chai Wan Baptist Church and Dr Chan Kin-man of Chinese University release Occupy manifesto
June 20-29 Occupy holds "referendum" on three election models, all backing public nomination in 2017 chief executive poll
August 31 National People's Congress Standing Committee lays down framework for 2017 poll that critics say cannot ensure genuine universal suffrage
September 22 Federation of Students starts five-day class boycott
September 26 Student protesters break from rally outside government headquarters in Admiralty and scuffle with police. Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung is arrested
September 28 Tai declares start of Occupy protests. Police lose control of crowds and use 87 rounds of tear gas
September 29 Protesters block key roads in Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok
September 30 Protesters urge Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign
October 3 Scores of anti-Occupy activists storm Mong Kok streets and clash with protesters
October 20 High Court grants injunctions to transport groups and Citic Tower owner, ordering protesters in Mong Kok and parts of Admiralty to leave
October 21 Top officials and federation leaders reach no consensus in meeting to discuss electoral reforms
November 9 President Xi Jinping expresses support for Leung
November 15 Federation leaders' plans to petition state leaders in Beijing fall flat because mainland authorities revoke their re-entry permits
November 18 Masked people smash glass doors of Legislative Council and urge protesters to storm building
November 25 Authorities carry out first large-scale clearance operation, targeting Mong Kok
November 27 Radical protesters return to Mong Kok to stage so-called shopping rallies and clash with police
December 1 Scholarism members start hunger strike
December 3 Occupy's founding trio turn themselves in to police
December 8 Court grants injunction to bus company to remove blockades at Connaught Road Central, Harcourt Road and Cotton Tree Drive
December 11 Authorities conduct large-scale operation to free up Central and Admiralty