Hong Kong police on Monday removed some barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters in the Chinese-controlled city, but said protesters could remain on the streets they have occupied for the past two weeks.
At the main protest site, near government offices in the downtown district of Admiralty, scores of student protesters faced off with police who were massing in the area, a Reuters witness said.
The removal of barricades and massing of police, some carrying small riot shields, were the first signs in two weeks that the government may be prepared to back threats by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that the blockade of key parts of the Asian financial hub could not last indefinitely.
Protesters are demanding Leung step down and China allow Hong Kong people the right to vote for a leader of their choice in 2017 elections. China wants to select candidates for the election.
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The demonstration escalated late last month after police used tear gas and batons on demonstrators. Since then, police have been largely hands-off and their presence minimal.
On Monday morning, many protesters in Admiralty donned face masks and goggles in preparation for possible use of tear gas or pepper spray.
"They don't want to clear everyone today. They want to make the protest area as small as possible to open roads to traffic," said a stage audio technician named Tyler who was among the protesters in Admiralty.
"I don't want to cause any inconvenience to the public but it is the only way we can do (it). If we do it in a more peaceful or legal way the government won't notice us."
After removing some barricades to relieve traffic chaos in the area, police told Reuters that protesters could remain on the street.