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Hong Kong clears part of protest site

HONG KONG (AP) ― Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday began clearing away some barricades from part of a pro-democracy protest site in Mong Kok district, scene of previous violent confrontations with police and angry mobs.

Police were on hand to assist bailiffs working under a court order to remove obstructions from the site, which activists have occupied for nearly two months. It said police are authorized to arrest anyone obstructing the bailiffs.

Workers in white hard hats and gloves moved wooden pallets and other junk into the middle of an intersection to be taken away in a truck that pulled up. Dozens of police and bailiffs watched the operation, and there was no immediate resistance from protesters.

Protesters have been camped out on major thoroughfares in three areas of Hong Kong since Sept. 28 demanding greater democracy. The standoff has continued with no end in sight as neither the government nor the student-led protesters have shown any willingness to compromise.

A crowd of people supporting the police clearance operation applauded from the sidelines.

Businessman Andrew Tang said he traveled across Victoria Harbor to watch the barricade removal. He said the protesters were not realistic in their demands to China’s communist rulers in Beijing and miscalculated by not withdrawing earlier.

“The Communist Party will never surrender,” he said as he gave a thumbs-up to the police.

Authorities last week started enforcing court orders against protest sites. They removed some barricades from the edge of the main protest area, next to the city government headquarters, while protesters offered little resistance.

The barricade clearances come at a critical phase for the protest movement, as student leaders run out of options, and public support and the number of demonstrators dwindle.

More than 80 percent of 513 people surveyed last week by Hong Kong University researchers said the protesters should go home. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. A separate survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong released days earlier found about two-thirds of 1,030 respondents felt the same way.

The operation on Tuesday is being carried out after Hong Kong’s High Court granted a restraining order to a minibus company requiring protesters to leave one of the occupied Mong Kok streets. A separate court order granted to taxi drivers to clear another Mong Kok street is expected to be enforced on Wednesday.