Hong Kong protesters say 'We'll be back' as police swoop looms

AFP , Wednesday 10 Dec 2014

HK protests
A cartoon picture featuring a police officer hitting a protester is shown in the occupied area outside government headquarters in Hong Kong Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 (Photo: AP)

An air of tired resignation hung over Hong Kong's main pro-democracy protest site Wednesday as demonstrators braced for a police clearance after more than two months of rallies -- but bright new posters declared "We'll be back".

Police will clear the Admiralty camp on Thursday, opening traffic once more on a multi-lane highway through the heart of the business district that has become home to tents, supply stations and artwork by student-led protesters calling for fully free leadership elections.

Authorities have asked protesters to retreat and have said they will take "resolute action" against those who resist in what they say is a bid to restore public order.

Student leaders are also encouraging non-violence.

"We will not call for a new round of occupying, we'll wait and see what the government will do to meet public opinion," said student leader Alex Chow.

Beijing says that candidates in the leadership elections in 2017 will have to be vetted by a loyalist committee, in what protesters have dismissed as "fake democracy".

And new art around the Admiralty site, which has become a creative hub during the protests, made clear the movement was not over.

"Sweeping away the barricades cannot sweep away public opinion. The body is down but the determination is not. We will be back," read one poster, showing a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film 'Terminator'.

Another "We will be back" poster was draped across the road and the slogan was created in gold balloons near the main speakers' stage.

In trademark humour for the occupied site, an alien doll wearing goggles and a yellow cape was tied to a sign-post with a shield that read: "Whoever clears me out will be afflicted with stubborn disease until death."

Bailiffs will start implementing injunction orders from 9:00 am (0100 GMT) Thursday to clear parts of the site before police dismantle the rest, authorities have said.

Tens of thousands rallied at Admiralty at the height of the protests, but public support for the road blockages has waned as the weeks have worn on.

Protesters told of their sadness at the lack of political concessions from Hong Kong or Beijing, who branded the demonstrations illegal.

"To be honest, we failed this time. Having slept on the street for two months, we haven't achieved anything," said 28-year-old theatre worker Karen Ho. "But at least we saw how ugly and ridiculous our government can be."

Others said they were still determined to prove their point.

"I will sit here and let them carry me away," said Lucas Wong, 23, a computer repair worker.

"We need to show police we are here, not just tents," he said, adding that he would bring a helmet and shield to defend himself.

There are fears that radical splinter groups will dig in for a final stand in the wake of violent clashes outside government headquarters at the end of last month.

That prompted the leaders of the Occupy Central campaign group to hand themselves in to police in a bid to get the protests off the streets.

"It's difficult to guarantee no clashes will arise... I especially call on parents and teachers to persuade them (students) not to come back to the occupy area in Admiralty," government number two Carrie Lam said Wednesday.

But protester Vincent Man, 26, said he just wanted to stay safe.

"I know that some people will resist the police -- but I would rather not get injured and arrested."

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