Hong Kong police clash with protesters on Christmas Eve

Use tear gas to disperse crowd in city’s shopping district

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

In Harbour City, a luxury mall, the police used pepper spray and batons when a group of plainclothes officers were discovered and surrounded.

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

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

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

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.

In a statement, the 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.

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