HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong police carried out a dawn raid to remove barricades and other obstacles erected by pro-democracy protesters around the bustling area of Mong Kok, moving in while many demonstrators were still asleep.
Friday’s operation, across the harbour from the main demonstration site near the office of Hong Kong’s leader, was the latest to dismantle barricades after nearly three weeks of protests that have paralysed parts of the Asian financial hub.
Police encountered little resistance, unlike recent days when there has been violent clashes at other protest sites.
The protesters have been demanding full democracy for the former British colony and calling on the city’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, to step down.
Leung on Thursday sought to defuse tensions with demonstrators, saying he hoped the two sides could talk next week.
“I am so furious. The government said it would talk to the students about these issues, then it came and cleared our base. This is no way to do this,” said Cony Cheung, 21, a skin care products saleswoman.
In August, Beijing offered Hong Kong people the chance to vote for their own leader in 2017, but only among candidates selected by a screening committee filled with pro-Beijing figures.
Large numbers of police vans were blocking access to the protest site in Mong Kok to bar other protesters from entering.
No arrests were made, according to a chief superintendent helping to lead the operation. About 800 officers were involved in the move, he added.
Some protesters were packing up their supplies and aiming to head to the main demonstration area in the Admiralty district. Authorities were loading small trucks with metal barricades and belongings left by the protesters.
The surprise raid came just days after hundreds of police used sledgehammers and chainsaws to tear down barricades erected by protesters to reopen a major road.
Reporting by Clare Baldwin, James Pomfret and Bobby Yip; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Dean Yates