Hong Kong police fired tear gas a few minutes into 2020 as pro-democracy protesters took their movement into the new year with midnight countdown rallies and a massive march planned for January 1.

Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

The city has been battered by more than six months of unrest with marches attended by millions, as well as confrontations in which police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets — and protesters have responded with petrol bombs.

Before midnight on Tuesday, thousands of protesters gathered across the financial hub, including along the waterfront of Victoria Harbour and at nightlife hotspot Lan Kwai Fong.

Photo: Kero/United Social Press.

Protesters at the harbourfront counted down chanting “Ten! Nine! Liberate Hong Kong, revolution now!” as they lit up their phones in a sea of lights.

Smaller crowds of protesters in the Mong Kok district set fire to barricades — and riot police unleashed 2020’s first volleys of tear gas in response.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Shortly before the final day of 2019 drew to a close, police used water cannon to disperse protesters in the same area while, in nearby Prince Edward neighbourhood, officers arrested several protesters staging a candlelight vigil.

Photo: Studio Incendo.

Earlier in the evening, thousands of people linked arms in human chains that stretched for miles along busy shopping streets and through local neighbourhoods.

Photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

They chanted slogans, sang “Glory to Hong Kong” — a protest anthem — and held up posters calling for people to fight for democracy in 2020.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

“Thanks to 2019, which tore off the ugly masks of the police and the government and let the people see the truth,” said protester Kris, a medic who joined protest.

Avery Ng and Jimmy Lam in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: InMediahk.net.

“The movement is kind of like at its bottleneck now. Hopefully, a huge turnout at tomorrow’s march could bring back people’s passion,” he added.

Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

The city’s traditional New Year Eve’s bumper fireworks display was cancelled due to safety concerns, but a light show and smaller-scale fireworks took place instead.

 Economic disruption 

In late November, the city’s pro-democracy camp scored a landslide victory in a municipal-level vote widely seen as a referendum on the Beijing-backed government’s handling of political unrest.

Photo: Kero/United Social Press.

The protest movement has since become quieter but sporadic clashes have persisted.

Photo: StandNews.

In a New Year’s video message broadcast on state media, Chinese president Xi Jinping said Hong Kong’s recent upheaval was concerning and that the “people of our motherland” expected stability in the restive city.

But protesters have vowed to continue their effort to push for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

On Tuesday night, demonstrators also swarmed major shopping malls, which have become regular protest venues in an effort to cause economic disruption.

Photo: StandNews.

Further public rallies were planned at midnight across the city, including on both sides of Victoria Harbour and at nightlife hotspot Lan Kwai Fong.

Photo: Kero/United Social Press.

The city’s traditional New Year Eve’s bumper fireworks display has been cancelled due to safety concerns, but a light show and smaller-scale fireworks will take place instead.

Photo: ST Hui/United Social Press.

“2019 is a remarkable and special year for every single Hongkonger,” 25-year-old teacher Sam told AFP as he celebrated New Year’s Eve with his family at the harbourfront.

Photo: ST Hui/United Social Press.

“People’s demands are loud and clear, but the government is not listening. In 2020, I really hope it will be a better year for all Hong Kong people.”

The Civil Human Rights Front, the chief organiser of the city’s record-breaking marches, will kick off the new year with a huge demonstration on Wednesday, urging the government to respond to the five demands of the pro-democracy movement — which include an independent inquiry into the police, amnesty for arrestees and fully free elections.

Photo: Kero/United Social Press.

Police have arrested nearly 6,500 people since June — nearly a third aged under 20.

Photo: InMediahk.net.

“The youngsters have sacrificed a lot for justice… 2019 is a wake-up call,” a 63-year-old retiree, who gave his surname as Shiu, told AFP.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

“People will be more determined in the new year. People know that the future of Hong Kong depends on whether we can achieve the five demands.”

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

The demonstrations were initially sparked by a now-abandoned bill to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, but have since morphed into a popular revolt against Beijing’s control — the biggest crisis since the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.

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