Hong Kong court approves 'Occupy' eviction

A Hong Kong court on Monday approved the eviction of protesters camped outside the HSBC bank headquarters in the city, in a major blow to the last outpost of the "Occupy" movement in Asia.

"The defendants can't provide sufficient reason to continue to live on the property so the court has decided to allow the plaintiff to take back the property," magistrate Reuden Lai said.

The camp sprouted at the landmark HSBC tower in central Hong Kong 10 months ago, weeks after thousands of people pitched tents in New York's Zuccotti Park demanding an overhaul of the rules of global capitalism.

Similar camps sprang up in dozens of countries worldwide, but most have petered out since police forcibly dismantled the New York tent city in November last year.

The High Court gave the Hong Kong protesters 14 days to leave the courtyard of the bank's downtown office tower, after which HSBC would be entitled to reclaim the site.

Only a handful sleep at the camp overnight, and during the day there are rarely more than 10, according to witnesses and bank officials.

Even so, their 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 and financial districts.

"We welcome the decision of the court and look to the occupiers to follow the terms of the court order," HSBC spokesman Gareth Hewett told AFP.

HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, brought its case against the "occupiers of the ground floor" of its Asian headquarters, along with three individuals it identified as the ringleaders of the protest.

Defiant protester Tam Mei-kam, 89, said: "They can try all they want, I won't leave."

But fellow occupier Ho Yiu Shing said he would "find another suitable place" to continue his protest.

London-based HSBC was spared the worst of the 2008 global financial crisis and did not receive one of the bailouts that spurred the original New York Occupy movement.

But it has recently been fined and forced to apologise for failing to apply anti-money laundering rules in transactions that US lawmakers say benefited Iran, terrorists and drug dealers.

The banking industry's reputation has also been damaged by revelations of interest rate fixing at British lender Barclays, as well as US allegations that another British firm, Standard Chartered, acted as a "rogue bank" by violating financial sanctions on Iran.

Standard Chartered denies the allegations.

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