By Clare Baldwin
Two Hong Kong student leaders were banned from a large area in Mong Kok as a condition of bail on Thursday after they were arrested during scuffles as police cleared one of the largest protest sites that have choked the city for weeks.
Joshua Wong, Lester Shum and activist lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, who was also banned from Mong Kok, were charged with obstructing court bailiffs and did not enter a plea.
They are due to appear again in court on Jan. 14.
Wong, Shum and Leung were among more than 100 people arrested in Mong Kok over the past two days. Shum and Leung received similar bail terms.
The student leaders both accused police of using excessive force, while Shum said he believed the bail conditions were unreasonable as his office was near the banned area.
“The area I am banned from is way larger than the injunction area,” said Shum. “I will discuss with my lawyer whether we appeal or not.”
The Mong Kok clearance was the second time in as many weeks that police, court bailiffs and workers have moved to enforce court-ordered injunctions to clear the streets.
The protesters are demanding open nominations for the Chinese-controlled city’s next chief executive nomination in 2017. Beijing said in August it would allow a vote, but only among pre-screened candidates.
Lined with banks, noodle shops and gritty tenements, the streets of Mong Kok have been a key battleground for protesters and mobs intent on disbanding them, and was viewed as the protest site most likely to resist clearance.
While the protesters regrouped and tried to storm back onto the roads, they ultimately failed to penetrate the mass of police armed with pepper spray and batons deployed to defend the major traffic intersections. Some protesters were hospitalised with head injuries from police batons.
The main protest site in Admiralty next to the city’s chief executive office and barracks for China’s People’s Liberation Army remains largely intact, with no suggestion of police moving in there yet. There is also a small protest site in the Causeway Bay shopping district.
As the students regroup, they may target government buildings, another student leader told local broadcaster RTHK.
“Further actions include a possibility of some escalations pointed at government-related buildings,” Hong Kong Federation of Students member Yvonne Leung said.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese Communist Party rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that gave it some autonomy from the mainland and an undated promise of universal suffrage.