Hong Kong police pulled down barricades Monday, folded up tents and arrested some protesters at the third and final pro-democracy protest camp, putting an end to demonstrations that have blocked traffic in the southern Chinese city's streets for more than two months.
A small group of protest leaders chanted "We will be back" and called on Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong's Beijing-backed chief executive, to step down.
A police negotiator gave the 17 protesters one last chance to leave voluntarily from a short stretch of road in Causeway Bay before officers started taking them away one by one to a waiting bus.
By midday, the road was returned to traffic.
"With the cleanup completed in the Causeway Bay occupied area, the illegal occupation of Hong Kong over the past two months has come to an end," said Leung, adding that tourism, retail, convention and other industries had suffered "very big" economic losses.
This past week authorities shut down the protesters' main camp, near the heart of the city's financial and government district, and arrested for unlawful assembly 249 people who refused to leave.
The student-led protesters rejected Beijing's plan to screen all candidates in the first-ever elections for Hong Kong's top leader but failed to win significant concessions from the government.
"I don't think it's a failure. This is not the end," said K.T. Kang, a legal executive. "I hope the next time when we gather in the streets, we will be celebrating instead of shedding tears for achieving nothing."
However, many say the protest movement sparked a wider political awakening among the city's residents, especially the young. Protest leaders vowed to keep up their campaign of civil disobedience through other methods to continue pressuring the government for genuine democracy.
After police on Thursday cleared most of the main protest site, in the Admiralty district next to government headquarters, protesters at the Causeway Bay camp were resigned to eventually being removed.
That followed the clearance in late November of a site in Mong Kok, a gritty residential neighborhood across the harbor from the main business district — a move that sparked several nights of running battles between demonstrators and police.
On Monday there was little for the police to remove because Causeway Bay protesters had already begun packing up their things. About 10 people sat waiting to be arrested when police arrived.
Fernando Cheung, pro-democracy lawmaker who was at the site to observe the police operation and arrests, said the closing of the site did not mean the end of the civil disobedience campaign.
"In the legislative council, we will do our best to resist through an uncooperative campaign," for example, by voting down budget requests and the government's electoral reform package. "There will be more action," he said.
He said the movement could point to accomplishments even if it did not achieve any concrete goals. "The duration and scale of the occupation signifies the determination and the force, the power behind the people who ask for democracy in Hong Kong," Cheung said. "And secondly, it's the awakening of the young generation, which has limitless power."
Otto Ng, an 18-year-old student, had been camped out at the Admiralty protest site and went to Causeway Bay to watch the last moments.
"It feels a bit depressed and hopeless, but at the same time, this is just the beginning. It's not the end ... We still haven't got what we wanted .... It's awakened the Hong Kong people," he said.