Cheers for HK police as barricades removed

Updated: 2014-10-18 04:46


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Cheers for HK police as barricades removed

Residents applaud as traffic flow resumes in Mong Kok, Hong Kong, on Friday after police cleared a protest zone in a dawn raid. KIN CHEUNG / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Commuters and residents in Hong Kong plagued by traffic disruptions triggered by 20 days of illegal sit-ins cheered on Friday as police partially reopened key roads.

Three-way traffic at Kowloon’s busiest intersection resumed after a police operation early in the day. However, southbound traffic at the junction remains blocked by the protesters.

A 40-year-old newspaper hawker surnamed To, who works near Mong Kok subway station, said she is delighted that she can finally travel home by bus.

“I live miles away and have had to transfer several times to get home. Trains have been overcrowded and my traveling time had more than doubled,” To said.

She said deliveries to her stall on Friday had been on time for the first time in weeks and sales had increased by more than 30 percent.

Lee Tak, a 57-year-old security guard who works in the evenings, said he hopes the protesters will end their disruption at night.

Some workers remained cautious, saying there are still delays and diversions as some protesters remain on the streets.

Police removed barricades at the Kowloon intersection, but about 200 protesters returned shortly before noon to reoccupy the south side, which remains closed to traffic.

A group of protesters also attempted to reoccupy Lung Wo Road in Admiralty, the scene of a short-lived blockade on Wednesday evening.

Chief Superintendent Stephen Hui said police will not tolerate blocked roads or threats to public safety, adding that the force will take “resolute action”.

Hui said police have a duty to protect the public’s right to use roads and he also criticized radical protesters, accusing them of harassment.

He said the hit-and-run tactics being used by “flash mobs” have introduced a new level of chaos to the situation and these protesters have ignored the safety of other road users.

Hui said the public will not accept such acts and called on those responsible to reflect on the serious consequences of potential accidents resulting from the blockades.

He warned protesters not to imitate the “flash mob” tactics or to incite others to commit illegal acts online, saying there will be consequences for improper online conduct and that Internet users who trigger protests will be criminally liable.

Police say 38 officers were injured during operations to maintain public order, during which officers faced abuse from protesters.