Thursday saw Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters bid farewell to their 75-day street occupation when police stormed the main protest site at the Admiralty district, tearing down thousands of colorful tents and makeshift barricades that have blocked several main roads in Hong Kong’s financial district since late September.
On Wednesday night, more than 10,000 Hong Kong residents gathered at Admiralty to witness the final hours of the main protest site. According to Reuters, people cheered and clapped to speeches given by student leaders, who kept emphasizing that the civil disobedience campaign would not disappear with the clearance, but rather resume in new forms.
“Our aim is to let the world see what we demand and most importantly, that Hong Kongers can unite,” said protester Kenneth Kan in an interview with Reuters.
Many people came out the night before to preserve artworks created for the so called “Umbrella Movement” and to take pictures with phones and cameras. Several groups came out to save several iconic artworks, including the “Umbrella Girl” that hung between the footbridges leading to the central government office, and Lennon Wall, a staircase covered with thousands of neon sticky notes containing supportive messages for the movement.
As police swiftly tore down the colorful tents and destroyed barricades made from bamboo poles and crowd-control barriers, several protest leaders and prominent figures were arrested, including democratic legislators Emily Lau, Martin Lee, media mogul Jimmy Lai and student leader Alex Chow. Police took arrested protestors one by one to police vans and carried out those who refused to walk. The arrests stretched into Thursday night when the last group of protesters were escorted out by the police.
The decision to tear down main protest site came when the Hong Kong high court handed down an injunction won by a local bus company against the protesters. Although the injunction cover only part of the protest site, police had announced that they planned to disperse the entire camp throughout Thursday. Many demonstrators left before the clearance, packing up remaining supplies and camping gears that have helped sustain the protest for months.
Demonstrators emphasized that even when the protest site was temporarily torn down, the momentum of the pro-democracy campaign continues.
“We’ll do more civil disobedience actions,” said Jamie Ng, 21-year-old protester in an interview with CNN. “We’ll go talk to local communities.”
(Feature photo of Hong Kong’s protests for democracy at the beginning, by Dan Garrett)