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Hong Kong protest sites to be cleared: court
[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's High Court has ordered the main protest sites that have choked the financial city for months to be cleared, building up to a final showdown between pro-democracy activists and authorities backed by Beijing.
A local bus company, which was granted an injunction against street blockades at the site in Admiralty, home to government offices and next to the main Central business district, has received an official clearance order from the High Court, according to notices posted in local papers on Tuesday.
Student groups have been calling for a free vote in the Chinese controlled city through largely peaceful demonstrations dubbed the "Umbrella Movement".
But chief executive C.Y. Leung, who has branded the protests illegal, over the weekend rejected calls for more talks on political reform and warned protesters not to turn to violence when the clearance starts.
Splinter protest groups calling for democracy for Hong Kong are springing up and fast-tracking action plans as student-led demonstrators consider a retreat from the main protest site which has blocked key downtown arteries since the end of September.
Police are expected to clear the sites on Thursday with over 3,000 officers, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported, citing police sources.
At their peak, the Hong Kong rallies drew more than 100,000 on to the streets, but numbers have since dwindled and public support for the movement has waned.
Clashes between protesters and police increased at the end of November after the clearance of protest sites in the densely populated working-class district of Mong Kok district, on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong harbour.
One man was jailed for six months on Monday for threatening to burn Mong Kok demonstrators with paint thinner, media said on Monday.