Global banking giant HSBC on Monday sought legal permission to evict a handful of protesters camped outside its Hong Kong headquarters, one of the last remnants of the “Occupy” movement in Asia.
The bank named the “occupiers of the ground floor” of its downtown office tower as the defendants in the case, along with three individuals it identified as the ringleaders of the nine-month-old protest.
“The defendants are currently trespassing on the property by their continued occupation,” the bank said in its filing to the court, setting up a possible showdown with the protesters.
“The occupation has caused difficulties for the plaintiff in performing its obligations under the deed in respect of the property,” it added, referring to the cleaning and maintenance of a typhoon shelter.
HSBC said the impact of the protest had “waned” in terms of publicity and it was “now attracting homeless and otherwise vulnerable people”.
Bank spokesman Gareth Hewett said: “I don’t think we’re talking about many people. Less than five stay overnight and during the day its six or seven. At weekends it’s a bit more.”
The protesters’ tents, personal belongings and banners denouncing capitalism have become a fixture — some say an eyesore — at the HSBC building in one of Hong Kong’s most exclusive shopping districts.
“HBSC believes possession of the ground floor of its Main Building should be given to the bank to allow it to restore proper pedestrian access to be enjoyed by all members of the public in Hong Kong,” Hewett said.
He said the court could appoint a bailiff to determine how best to remove the protest camp.
One of the defendants, 65-year-old homeless man Wong Chung Hang, said he had not been informed about the case.
“I have no idea that I’ve been sued,” he told AFP at the protest camp.
Another protester, Alan Chui, 48, said: “It is a basic human right to protest here on the ground floor of HSBC, which is a public space.”
Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protesters who pitched tents in New York’s Zuccotti Park last September demanding an overhaul of the rules of global capitalism, protest camps sprang up in dozens of countries worldwide.
But the movement has since lost momentum despite ongoing scandals surrounding the banking and finance industries, including recent revelations of interest rate fixing at British lender Barclays.