Hong Kong marked Christmas Eve with tear gas and mall clashes on Tuesday night as battles between democracy activists and riot police swept through a major shopping district.

Tear gas in Mong Kok. Photo: Chau Ho Man/United Social Press.

The evening’s unrest was the most sustained in what has otherwise been a few weeks of comparative calm for a city upended by more than six months of violent protests.

Photo: Kero/United Social Press.

Thousands of black-clad protesters — some wearing Santa hats and reindeer antlers — took to the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, a usually bustling tourist district.

Photo: Chau Ho Man/United Social Press.

Clashes soon erupted with riot police firing multiple rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters throughout the evening, including outside the famous Peninsula Hotel.

Riot police outside The Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Police said a “large group of rioters” had built barricades, damaged traffic lights and dug up bricks on the area’s major thoroughfares.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Meanwhile, flashmob rallies were held in multiple malls across the financial hub, with protesters chanting anti-government slogans.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

In Harbour City, a luxury mall, police used pepper spray and batons when a group of plainclothes officers were discovered and surrounded, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

The plainclothes officers made multiple arrests as the crowds threw objects and heckled them.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Riot police quickly arrived at the scene, one aiming a shotgun at protesters as shops quickly shuttered.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Flashmob rallies formed in at least four other locations on Tuesday night with riot police trying to disperse crowds shouting chants and heckling officers.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Footage posted on social media from a mall in Yuen Long district showed a man barging into a police officer and leaping one storey below in a bid to avoid arrest.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

In a statement, police said officers were responding to reports protesters were vandalising shops in the mall and that the man who fell was taken to hospital in a conscious state and arrested for assault.

Muted Christmas 

Hong Kong’s many malls have become regular protest venues as protesters try to cause economic disruption in their push for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Online forums have called for pop-up demonstrations over the Christmas and New Year period targeting shopping districts.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

A former British colony with a sizeable Christian population, Hong Kong is having a distinctly muted Christmas this year.

Swathes of the population are seething against Beijing’s rule and the semi-autonomous city’s local government.

Tear gas in Mong Kok. Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

The months of protest have helped tipped a financial hub already battered by the trade war into recession and sparked intense political polarisation.

Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

Christmas Eve is usually a major night for retailers and bars, with key districts pedestrianised.

Photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

But police said they would not close roads to traffic this year fearing protesters might use the opportunity to gather.

Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

Hong Kong’s protests were initially sparked by a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

They have since morphed into a popular revolt against Beijing’s rule, with spiralling fears that the city is losing some of its unique liberties.

Tear gas in Mong Kok. Photo: Chau Ho Man/United Social Press.

Local leader Carrie Lam eventually scrapped the extradition bill but both she and Beijing have refused any further concessions.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Among the demands being made by protesters is an inquiry into the police, an amnesty for the more than 6,000 people arrested and the right to elect Hong Kong’s leader.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

The fall-off in violence came after hundreds of hardcore protesters were arrested during a campus siege — and after the pro-democracy camp won a landslide in local elections — last month.

Photo: Kero/United Social Press.

That has given city leaders and police some breathing room. But public anger remains palpable.

Allen Man, a 30-year-old carrying his son on his shoulders, was one of those around the Harbour City mall on Tuesday before the situation turned violent.

“We are here to enjoy the atmosphere but we’re not going to buy anything,” he told AFP. “We would like to tell the government that we are not giving up.”

Earlier this month a huge crowd of some 800,000 people marched peacefully.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

The same group behind that rally have applied for permission to hold a similar march on New Year’s Day.

Nonetheless, Beijing has thrown is weight behind Lam and dismissed the movement’s grievances.


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