“The illegal occupation action […] is over”

The clearance of Admiralty was the symbol end to the Umbrella Movement’s physical occupations, though Causeway Bay was not cleared until December 15.

Here’s the report of the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations), Cheung Tak-keung, on Admiralty’s clearance. The police closure of the area that had been planned for the late morning did not happen until 2:20pm. A total of 909 people had their details recorded as they left, so that “[p]olice may pursue criminal liability against them later.” The remaining 209 protesters (131 male, 78 female) conducting a sit-in were arrested starting at 4:25pm for “Unlawful Assembly” and “Obstructing Police in Execution of Duty.” Hong Wrong’s photo essay on the arrests shows the many lawmakers, activists, and even celebrities who were taken away.

Cheung also noted the arrests of four other men off-site in the day before the clearance for related offenses, including Wong Yeung-Tat of Civic Passion, League of Social Democrats vice chairman Raphael Wong, Student Front founder Alvin Cheng, and Anthony So, assistant to People Power’s Ray Chan.

The next day, there were still visible markers of the protest at the site left on the streets through taped and graffitied messages. I took photos of some of the occupation’s remnants when I visited Admiralty on the 14th.

That night, protesters continued to take up the holiday spirit as they traveled through Causeway Bay singing carols with Umbrella Movement lyrics. It’s really been a fascinating thing to see how religion and politics are intersecting in Hong Kong – and in China broadly. So many leaders of Occupy Central identify as Christian, and Catholics are a large presence as well. There’s a handful of Buddhist leaders, but the Christians are a far more visible group. And it’d be interesting to look into how Christian women in particular view the movement and the protests, especially considering Christianity’s strange history in China…

On December 13, the police released details on the clearance of Causeway Bay, to take place two days later. Rather than the thousands of officers who had been on standby for Admiralty’s clearance, only a few hundred were expected to be present for Causeway Bay.

So the evening before Causeway Bay’s clearance, I went down to Admiralty and to Causeway Bay to see how both were doing. There was still an occupation at the British Consulate, though it was small in size and had been moved across the street. Tents were still set up along Civic Square on Tim Mei Avenue and at the Legislative Council’s north entrance, near where protesters had so long ago tried to smash through its doors. The protesters there had not yet been cleared because that rotunda is a designated zone for public demonstrations, although the president of the Legislative Council, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, had considered getting an injunction against them.

But as I walked through the rotunda, I didn’t know any of that, and I wasn’t sure why there were still protesters there. So I stopped a pair of people, one a young white woman and the other an older Chinese man, who were chatting together and asked why they were still camped out there.

20141214_140747They pointed to the banner they’d placed at the entrance to the space. They had the right to continue protesting in that space, they explained. We chatted for a while, and I learned that the older man, Bassino, had lived in Hong Kong all his life. The woman, a French student who was in this great program at the Sorbonne that let her travel and study at the same time, had been elsewhere in Asia before the protests and arrived in Hong Kong as soon as she heard about them.

She didn’t speak any Chinese, but she seemed to feel very much part of the group as she talked about couples she knew who’d broken up and new relationships she’d seen form. The two were very kind and welcomed me to join them inside the encampment area, and I ended up staying there for several hours.

Bassino asked me, “Do you drink?” A little confused, I replied that I did, but not very much. Oh, then you should come back tonight! he told me. We’re having a party before everything ends tomorrow. I thanked him for the invitation as I left, but I ended up not going. It seemed like it ought to be a party for their family to say their goodbyes to one another. I wasn’t even sure how I felt about the idea of celebrating at the end of the occupation – was it sacrilegious, somehow? I spent the night at home instead.

The protest area was closed on December 15 for “cleaning and repair works,” which caused people to move to the side of the building near Civic Square. It was reopened on January 7, and provisional measures were enacted to prevent it from being reoccupied. On January 8, new barricades were set up in the designated protest zone “to ensure members of the public with different views could use the Legco facilities and the protest area safely,” but really to prevent anyone from being able to try to storm the doors again.

Though there wasn’t an injunction on Causeway Bay, the site was cleared without incident. The police remarks after the clearance hardly even mentioned the details of the operation, such as the number of people arrested (17). And thus – after 79 days – the occupations were declared officially “over,” as trumpeted by the Chief Executive.

  • This SCMP report offers stories of Hong Kong youth who tried to travel to the mainland. The youth argue that their treatment is alienating a whole generation of Hong Kong youth from developing closer ties with the mainland. My answer is that that’s probably not a major concern for the mainland, which has tons more people happy to move to Hong Kong if current Hongkongers want to leave…
  • Here’s Badcanto complaining about mainland woman publicly defecating in Sheung Shui on December 8. It rarely ever happens that such bad behavior is seen in Hong Kong, but when it does, it gets attention.

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