Police in Hong Kong have cleared what remained of the pro-democracy tent city outside the city's legislature. Protesters had camped there since last September, demanding democratic electoral reform.
Police had cleared away most of the sites in mid-December, but a small cluster of tents and hardcore protesters were allowed to remain on pavements until Wednesday, marking 270 straight days of demonstrations at the same site.
"The deadline has expired. I now announce that officers... will... remove the persons, tents, marquees and other properties," an official announced over a loudspeaker. Beijing had always said the camps were "illegal."
Some protesters watched police clear away their tents and possessions. Two men were led away by what appeared to be plainclothes police officers, but there was little resistance otherwise.
The so-called "Occupy Central" movement, which also became known as the "umbrella revolution" because of the yellow umbrellas protesters carried, started last September. But it failed to persuade China to allow a fully democratic vote for the city's next leader in 2017.
On June 18, pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers voted down a Beijing proposal, calling it "fake democracy." The bill would have finally given Hong Kong the right to elect its own leader, but only from a list pre-selected by the Chinese government.
When the city was handed over to China by Britain in 1997, the agreement was that Hong Kongers would eventually be able to elect their own leader by universal suffrage.
And radical protesters and "localists" demanding greater Hong Kong autonomy have vowed to keep fighting to prevent China from tightening its grip on the former British colony.
"The next step for us is to really move into the districts to try to reawaken the moderate democrats ... and to never stop fighting for democracy," Benny Mok, who had camped at the site for more than 250 nights, told the Reuters news agency.
"Hong Kong deserves better," he said.
ng/msh (Reuters, AFP)