Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas in Tsim Sha Tsui on Christmas eve, after clashes broke out inside an upscale mall, as large crowds of people had gathered in the busy district in apparent response to online calls for protests at shopping centres across Hong Kong.
Police also said 'rioters' had thrown petrol bombs at the Tsim Sha Tsui police station.
Officers first fired tear gas on Nathan Road by Salisbury Road at around 9pm after a group of officers who had arrested at least one suspect was surrounded by angry protesters.
The noxious gas covered a large area, enveloping a double decker bus and other traffic. Couples with small children were seen covering up their faces with tissues as they walked by afterwards.
Officers fired more tear gas in the same area around an hour later again after people threw bottles and other objects at them.
Irene, 30, who was in the area with her friends, did not think the tear gas was necessary.
“We just come to Tsim Sha Tsui to celebrate Christmas as usual. I’ve been coming Tsim Sha Tsui on the 24th [of December] every year for thirty years already. This year it’s the first time in my life to have the tear gas to celebrate with me for Christmas. I think it’s totally unacceptable,” she said.
Hordes of black-clad protesters then occupied Nathan Road, blocking the street completely. At around 10.30pm, the police's water-cannon-equipped anti-riot vehicle arrived, followed by many police vans, pushing the group down the road towards Jordan.
The water cannon was deployed at around 11pm, shooting a spray of water down Haiphong Road. However, it did not appear to have hit anyone.
Police launched a tear-gas grenade and fired at least one non-lethal round by the luxury Mira hotel on Kimberly Road at around 11.30pm, with many protesters still refusing to leave. More teargas was fired soon afterwards on Nathan Road.
Many unmasked people in ordinary clothes were caught up in the tear gas.
As the clock struck midnight, protesters welcomed the arrival of Christmas with chants of "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" and "Five demands, not one less!"
There were also clashes earlier in Harbour City as black-clad protesters and passersby fought with plainclothes police after officers subdued a number of people.
The plainclothes officers used batons to beat back a group of protesters, striking some repeatedly, while yelling at people to stop throwing things at them.
Live footage showed an officer raising his shotgun up at people as scores of riot police quickly entered to back up their colleagues.
Many shops pulled down their shutters, as police urged everyone still inside to leave. Officers also ordered journalists to leave the second floor of the shopping centre, where several people had been subdued.
But scores of people refused to comply with the police instructions, staying to chant anti-police and other protest slogans as alarms blared in the background.
An 18-year-old university student who gave his name as Monet, said he found it 'strange' for the police to arrest people.
"People just want to shop. Today's a holiday already, so it's not necessary for the police to chase people or arrest protesters, because we are holding demonstrations in a peaceful way", he said.
Another university student, Ken, said he doesn't mind giving up his Christmas Eve to protest.
"You can see the government did not promise, or give any hope to us that we can resolve this situation in a very short [period] of time. So I don't think this is a right time for us to celebrate a festival because at this moment, we should be fighting for what we want instead of celebrating a festival for entertainment or our own happiness", he explained.
In Mong Kok, police used pepper spray on people who were throwing things at them, before retreating from Langham Place Mall.
Some black-shirted protesters then occupied the intersection of Portland Street and Argyle Street, blocking traffic with assorted debris. At least one man was subdued after riot police and officers from the elite 'raptor' squad rushed in to make arrests.
At around 10.40 pm, protesters set some debris on fire at one of the MTR entrances at Mong Kok station, smashed up a glass door of the HSBC building, and set a small fire inside.
Last updated: 2019-12-25 HKT 00:20
Tear gas, pepper spray and clashes mar Christmas Eve
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