Hong Kong, Oct 14 :
Hong Kong police began removing barricades from all lanes Tuesday morning in Admiralty, the city’s business district, as the student-led occupation of main roads in the heart of the city entered its third week.
Hundreds of police, some carrying chainsaws, participated in the action, Xinhua reported. The police say they plan to reopen both tram lanes.
Dozens of police personnel with shields stood by as others rapidly dismantled barricades thrown up overnight by protesters after clashes on Monday.
The police also used a truck-mounted crane to remove bamboo scaffolding from the road.
The protesters had reinforced their defences there following clashes on Monday with groups opposing their movement.
Fred Tsui, senior superintendent, said the new structures were extremely dangerous and would block the passage of emergency vehicles.
He said the operation was not aimed at removing protesters but if they tried to resist with force they could face arrest.
However, few protesters were seen during the police action.
According to an earlier report by Efe news agency, pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong defied police warnings to get off the street and scrambled to re-erect barricades torn down by opponents of the student-led movement as they scuffled for control of the city’s streets.
Clashes were reported Monday from the Admiralty area, the city’s financial heart, involving around 500 people who favour Beijing’s policies in the former British colony, while flatbed trucks carted away the remains of makeshift barricades.
“The police did nothing to protect our tents — they were just destroyed,” one of the protesters told Efe.
Rumours swirled through the city claiming that the pro-Beijing gangs were really members of the Chinese mafia, after police mentioned the possibility that 200 members of these gangs took part in the Oct 3 clashes in the Mong Kok district.
Monday’s confrontations went on for some 40 minutes and resulted in the detention of three people for possession of weapons. The police separated both sides and stayed several metres away from the protesters.
In Causeway Bay area, activists reinforced makeshift barricades with cement after the police announced the area would be cleared. Earlier, police said they planned to evacuate the Causeway Bay and Queensway Street shopping districts very soon.
Protesters’ demands include a call for the resignation or removal of the chief executive of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, C.Y. Leung, widely seen as Beijing’s puppet.
They are also seeking guarantees that Hong Kong citizens can freely vote in 2017 from an unrestricted list of candidates, as Beijing promised when Britain handed over control of the territory in 1997.
The protests were sparked off by Beijing’s decision to allow Hong Kong a type of “universal suffrage” in selecting the next head of the government that limits the number of candidates to two or three, subject to the prior approval of an advisory committee.
Those restrictions led students to begin a strike calling for democracy to be established in Hong Kong and thousands of people joined in when police used tear gas to disperse sit-ins Sep 29.