HONG KONG (Reuters) - Members of the Occupy Hong Kong movement refused to leave the open-air plaza beneath HSBC bank’s Asian headquarters on Monday when a court deadline passed, and the bank said it would now get the court’s permission to remove them.
HSBC won a legal bid in a Hong Kong court earlier this month to evict the protesters, who have camped there for more than 10 months, giving them until Monday to leave the plaza and end one of the longest-running Occupy demonstrations.
HSBC, the world’s fourth largest bank by market capitalization, said its next step was to get a writ of possession from the court to take back the space.
Activists blasted rock music from a loudspeaker before the 9.00 a.m. EDT deadline to leave the plaza as a small crowd gathered to watch the peaceful protest in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial center.
“It’s not just about fighting capitalism, it’s a way of showing you can live another lifestyle. This is not the end. It’s another starting point for us,” said 19-year-old university student Brian Tam, who sometimes camps at the plaza.
About 10 activists remain in the square, and a few of them said they planned to set up a new camp outside the city’s legislative council building.
The Hong Kong protesters, echoing the Occupy Wall Street movement that targeted U.S. financial policies blamed for the income gap between the rich and poor, appeared at a time of growing resentment in the city of 7 million at what many saw as excessively close ties between the government and big business.
Although the camp dwindled to less than a dozen occupiers, its message of opposition to huge gaps in wealth resonates with residents of a city where property prices are among the world’s highest and affordable housing is a constant worry.
The Hong Kong movement attracted students, young professionals, activists, the unemployed and the homeless, as well as victims of Lehman Brothers collapse, who faced massive bond losses when the New York-based investment bank filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
Protesters of the Occupy New York movement were removed in November, while those in London were evicted in June.
Reporting By Sisi Tang, editing by Tim Pearce; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree