An appeal board has upheld a police ban on a rally planned for Sunday to mark the anniversary of a riot that broke out in Mong Kok over the Lunar New Year holiday period in 2016.
A localist group named Nationwise wanted to hold a rally dubbed “Remembering the Fishball Uprising” at MacPherson Playground, saying they wanted to "promote local culture".
But the police refused to grant permission for the assembly, saying it would likely be hijacked by "radical protesters" and the event would pose a high risk to public safety.
The force argued that the area will be crowded with people and vehicles during the holiday, also citing clashes and vandalism in Mong Kok during a protest in August, as well as a recent "bomb discovery" in the area.
Following a hearing on Thursday morning, an appeal board found in favour of the police.
Max Mok, one of organisers, said the rally was now cancelled. He added that the authorities might as well impose a curfew during the holidays.
"The logic is basically that if there are people on the streets, there will be riots, and that's why they won't let us have this rally," Mok said.
"They are trying to crack down on people in general."
But police superintendent Lee Cho-ming welcomed the appeal board's decision, saying he hopes clashes won't break out again in Mong Kok, like they did at Christmas.
"In the past years during Lunar New Year, public order and safety has been maintained well in Mong Kok. Police and other departments, like in past years, will continue to keep good law and order in Mong Kok in order to let citizens enjoy a good festive atmosphere," Lee said.
More than 30 people have been convicted over the 2016 disturbances, which saw bricks and other objects thrown at police officers and fires set. The clashes began as protesters prevented hygiene officers from clearing hawkers from the streets.
The most high profile of those jailed over the riot was localist leader Edward Leung, who was given a six-year term for taking part in clashes on Argyle Street.
Leung is credited with coining a common slogan of the current protest movement "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times", having used the term while campaigning for a Legco by-election in 2016 before he was disqualified from the race by the authorities.