Hong Kong police arrested student protest leaders Joshua Wong and Lester Shum on Wednesday while clearing the congested pro-democracy protest site in the city's Mong Kok district, reports Reuters.
Around 116 other people were also arrested Tuesday night as protesters fought to prevent hundreds of police from clearing barricades and tents that had blocked key roads in the Chinese-controlled city for more over two months.
Fox News reports that officers used shears to cut apart plastic ties holding together metal barricades while others tore down tents and canopies and carried away other objects, including a sofa. Ranks of officers, some equipped with backpack pepper sprayers, advanced down the street.
Wong 18, and Shum,21, from the Hong Kong Federation of Students, have led the protests since the end of August, demanding that Hong Kong's government ax a plan mandated by China's Communist leaders to use a panel of Beijing-approved officials to screen candidates for top leader in inaugural 2017 elections.
Protesters are also demanding Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying step down from his post as Beijing's leader -- a request that has all but fallen on deaf ears. The city's government backed out of negotiations after promising to meet with pro-democracy student leaders in September, stating it was not ready to discuss their demands for democracy and insisting that "illegal" occupation of the streets must end before negotiations could begin.
Although over 200,000 people participated in the start of the protests, numbers dwindled rapidly as the Hong Kong government's strategy of waiting out the student-led protesters left them with few options.
However, experts say this week's arrests may invigorate the protests, as the Hong Kong Federation of Students swiftly accused Chun-ying of "despising public opinion."
Wong, who unabashedly identifies as a Christian on his social media accounts, has said he will refuse to give up until his voice is heard.
"We will continue peaceful occupation," he told NBC. "We firmly believe that fighting for democracy is to change the impossible to the possible. We make history; we do things they could not predict," he said.
"Political reform is the core problem for every issue. Everyone knows that under the Chinese Communist party, there is a lack of possibility to fight [for] true universal suffrage in the end . . . but students should stand on the front line in every century."
He added, "if short-term protests won't work, there will be long-term protests... There is no losing."