Two of Hong Kong's most high-profile student protesters have been arrested as riot police swooped in to clear one of biggest Occupy Central protest sites on Wednesday. Joshua Wong and Lester Shum were taken away by officers as protesters clashed with cops late into the evening.
18-year-old Wong co-founded Scholarism, the student movement that kickstarted the protests alongside the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFSU) back in September. Hailed by Time as the "voice of a generation", he is at the forefront of a youthquake that – alongside HKFSU, of which Shum is deputy leader – has shut down busy downtown streets and mobilised over 100,000 old and young locals.
Wong and Shum are among the 116 people detained for offences including unlawful assembly and assaulting or obstructing police. Hundreds of officers flooded into Mong Kok to clear the barricades and tents that protesters had erected. Earlier today, court-appointed bailiffs warned demonstrators that they faced possible imprisonment if they resisted the clearance.
In what probably qualifies as the world's most sinister tourism stunt, people wearing red baseball caps and T-shirts reading "I (heart) Hong Kong" began dismantling the barriers this morning. They were quickly followed up by police officers who tore down the rest of the marquees and tents populating the protest site. Cars and lorries began flowing through the area – which had warded off traffic for over two months – in a matter of hours.
Scholarism announced on its Facebook page that Wong had been arrested for contempt of court. Police had previously arrested the university student for trespassing during the students' initial occupation in September; Wong spent 46 hours in detention for staging the occupation at a government building in Admiralty.
Activists are defiant that this doesn't signal the end of the Umbrella Revolution. While public support for the cause is dwindling, protesters still hold a key protest site at Admiralty and a second one at Causeway Bay.
"It's not the end," Helen Lau, a young activist, told Reuters. "We still have plan B; either to occupy other places or to step up our actions."