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September 21, 2017

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HSBC launches bid to evict Hong Kong Occupy Central rally

HONG KONG -- HSBC said Monday it has launched legal action in a bid to end the anti-capitalist Occupy movement in Hong Kong, where the protesters have camped out at its headquarters for eight months.

The Occupy Central group has set up tents in the public passageway on the ground floor of the HSBC headquarters since October, when similar protests were launched across Asia by the Occupy Wall Streets and "Indignants" movements.

The banking giant said it applied to the city's high court last Friday for an eviction order, after previous attempts to ask the small group of protesters to leave failed.

"We asked them to vacate voluntarily and we haven't really heard anything formal from them so we went to court," HSBC Hong Kong spokesman Gareth Hewett told AFP.

He said the court will decide on the ownership of the area, which acts as a public passageway and protesters say is a public area, but HSBC maintain the space is the bank's property.

"If the court decides that it is private property, a bailiff will be appointed by the court and then the bailiff will act in regards to repossessing the private property," Hewett said.

The Hong Kong group is the latest Occupy contingent to face legal action after authorities in cities from New York to London have moved to evict protesters.

But in Hong Kong the protesters have vowed to stay on.

"We will try our best to maintain this site," 46-year-old Alan Chiu, who is unemployed, told AFP at the site, where there are about 15 tents.

Hong Kong, the Asian financial hub of seven million people is known for its super-rich tycoons, low taxes and teeming shopping districts.

But it is also a case study in economic inequality, with thousands of low-income residents forced to live in "cage" accommodation because of the skyrocketing cost of housing fuelled by wealthy property speculators.

Official figures released last week showed the wealth gap in the city, already one of the world's widest, was worsening.

Currently the wealth gap in Hong Kong is around the same as Thailand and ranks among the highest in Asia, worse than mainland China, Singapore and Vietnam.

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