Authorities in Hong Kong have begun a final push to clear barricades and encampments from streets outside government offices in the port city, drawing more than two months of pro-democracy protests to a close.
As they moved to clear tents and barricades from the city’s streets and end the biggest protests the Chinese government has seen in more than two decades, authorities had voiced concerns about possible violence. That did not happen. Police arrested those who did stay.
Authorities moved quickly as they snipped through entangled barricades and took down art installations. As they felled a large bamboo scaffolding, the message on a banner strung across the monstrosity was telling: “Its just the beginning” it read.
Ethan Chun, a leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students says protesters will be out again if authorities continue to ignore their demands.
“We’ve already awakened a society. I think that even though the police and government can clear the street, but they cannot clear and get away with a whole population who are awakened,” Chun said.
Another student named June agreed.
“I believe one thing is that the history will prove that we are right," she said.
Hong Kong residents have grown increasingly tired of the street protests, which have blocked up major thruways in the busy city and impacted businesses. However, public disapproval of the methods protesters have used does not necessarily equal opposition to what they are fighting for - the right to select and elect their top leader without any interference from Beijing.
Despite weeks of protests, China has shown no signs that it is willing to make any compromises. And while most Chinese state media commentaries have written the movement off as temporary, arguing that student protesters are being manipulated by foreign powers, It is clear Chinese authorities are concerned.
Dozens have been detained here just for voicing their support for the movement. An editorial this week in the Global Times, which is owned by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily asked: How Far is the Color Revolution From China?
The piece quoted Rear Admiral Yang Yi from the PLA National Defense University as warning that the risk posed from Occupy Central should not be taken lightly. He also argued that the next step in addressing the problem was to hold “trouble makers” responsible and make rules so that such protests do not happen again.
The next big milestone for the movement will be when Hong Kong lawmakers vote on the controversial election plan next year that China has told the port city it must accept. That proposal says Hong Kong residents can vote to elect their next chief, but requires candidates be approved by a pro-Beijing committee.
“During that time I think we will all be out again," said Liana, a student protester.
So for now, Hong Kong is seeing an end to one chapter, but the beginning of the next.