Is HK's Umbrella Revolution coming to an end?

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Hong Kong authorities this week moved to clear parts of pro-democracy campsites without major incident, raising the question of whether the city's historic "umbrella revolution" is about to call it a day.

"This is the beginning of the end of the occupation, but I don't think it's the end of the movement," David Zweig, director of the Center on China's Transnational Relations at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,told CNBC.

Court bailiffs, backed by police, on Tuesday began removing barricades around Citic Tower, an office block located in the city-center, after the building's owner filed a complaint and the court issued an injunction against blocking traffic to the building.

Activists – who are advocating for the right to freely choose their next leader in 2017 – have occupied key thoroughfares in the city since September 28, when police tried to quash student-led protests with tear gas and pepper spray. Protestors' use of umbrellas to shield themselves earned the movement the name "Umbrella Revolution."

"The bulk of protestors know that they more or less need to call it a day," agreed Joseph Cheng, convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition supporting universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong watchers expect protest sites to be cleared gradually in the coming weeks, but warn there is a risk of violence breaking out again, particularly in the Mong Kong district which has been occupied by seasoned protestors with a long history of social activism, rather than students.

"Students have exams coming up, they are going to be heavily engaged over next month," said Michael DeGolyer, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. "Mong Kok, meanwhile, is going to be a more complex case. It may be the hardest one to clear."

While the protests have remained peaceful for the most part, there have been sporadic episodes of rowdiness.

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On Wednesday, a small group of protesters broke into the city's legislature via a side door, prompting riot police, some with shields and helmets, to intervene using pepper spray and batons to keep other demonstrators at bay.

What next?

While demonstrators' options are dwindling after their attempts to negotiate with the government failed, analysts expect the movement to live on.

Cheng says a group of pro-democracy legislators could resign from the city legislature in order to spark a by-election that will be used as a referendum to measure public opinion.

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"This is an important way to show the will of the Hong Kong people," he said.

Meantime, students will need to figure out a longer-term strategy for how they will influence future democracy in Hong Kong, said Zweig.

January: a key month

DeGolyer says Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung's policy address in January will be the next key event for the protestors.

"This is going to be the most critical policy address in Hong Kong since 1997," he said.

"If he does nothing to address the underlying causes of the movement – which include inequality, high living costs etc – there will be a re-ignition of protests almost certainly."