Hong Kong riot police clear protest site, arrest student leaders

Hong Kong police on Wednesday cleared one of the largest protest sites that have choked the city for months, arresting scores of pro-democracy activists in a blow to those hoping to wrest greater political freedom from authorities in Beijing.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong police on Wednesday cleared one of the largest protest sites that have choked the city for months, arresting scores of pro-democracy activists in a blow to those hoping to wrest greater political freedom from authorities in Beijing.

But thousands of mostly young demonstrators streamed back in the evening and clashed sporadically with police as they attempted to regain lost ground in the gritty Mong Kok district.

Student leaders Joshua Wong and Lester Shum were among those arrested as hundreds of officers advanced in lines through Mong Kok earlier in the day, clearing barricades and tents that had blocked key roads in the Chinese-ruled city for over two months.

Many protesters remained defiant, denying the setback marked the beginning of the end of the occupation, and it was not clear if or when police might try to remove the remaining protest sites elsewhere in the city.

"You can`t defeat the protesters` hearts!" screamed Liu Yuk-lin, a 52-year-old protester in a hard hat holding a yellow umbrella, the symbol of the movement, as she stood before lines of police in helmets and goggles.

Following a surprisingly smooth and swift morning clearance by police that restored traffic to an area where demonstrators had camped out since late September to call for greater democracy, protesters regrouped and retaliated late at night.

Some tried storming Nathan Road, but ultimately failed to penetrate the mass deployment of police at key intersections.

However, hundreds of activists surged into side streets, chanting for "real universal suffrage".

Police used pepper spray and batons to force crowds back, while individuals were chased and wrestled to the ground by officers before being taken away to loud jeers from the crowds.

Mong Kok has been a flashpoint for clashes between students and mobs intent on breaking up protests, which have posed one of the biggest challenges to China`s Communist Party leaders since the crushing of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing in 1989.