Hong Kong police fire tear gas at protesters wearing Santa hats and reindeer horns

Demonstrators smash shop windows as officers beat pro-democracy activists

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 25 December 2019 11:47 GMT
Residents dressed for Christmas festivities react to tear gas as police confront protesters on Christmas Eve in Hong Kong
Residents dressed for Christmas festivities react to tear gas as police confront protesters on Christmas Eve in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)

Hong Kong riot police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters, many wearing Santa Claus hats and reindeer horns, amid clashes in shopping centres on Christmas Eve.

Demonstrators smashed shop windows and threw umbrellas and other objects at police, who responded by beating some protesters with batons and using tear gas.

Hundreds of officers stood guard on the roads as thousands of Christmas shoppers and tourists congregated to view the Christmas lights.

Dozens of protesters then dug up bricks from the roads and set up barricades as the police warned they would deploy “minimum force to effect dispersal” and arrest “rioters”.

The protesters have been demanding greater democratic rights during more than six months of demonstrations, which look likely to continue into the new year.

Mask-wearing protesters chanted slogans such as “Revive Hong Kong, revolution in our time” and “Hong Kong independence” as they roamed the shopping centres.

Around 100 protesters smashed up a Starbucks inside a shopping centre called Mira Place, breaking the glass counters and spraying graffiti on the walls.

The chain has become a regular target of protesters after the daughter of the founder of Maxim’s Caterers, which owns the local franchise, condemned the protesters at a UN human rights council in Geneva.

Two metro stations were also shut early on Tuesday night due to protests. Train services were supposed to run overnight on Christmas Eve.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which has organised some of the biggest marches involving more than a million people, has applied to stage another march on New Year’s Day.

More than 6,000 people have been arrested since protests escalated in June, with many residents angry at what they see as Beijing’s meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony.

In a video posted to Facebook, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, wished citizens “a peaceful and safe Merry Christmas”.

She has refused to agree to protesters’ demands, which include an independent inquiry into police behaviour and the implementation of full universal suffrage.

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