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Third day of Christmas clashes in Hong Kong

Third day of Christmas clashes in Hong Kong

Protesters carry a flag reading "Liberate Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Times" as they march through a shopping mall in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on Dec 26, 2019. (Photo: AP/Vincent Yu

HONG KONG: Hong Kong endured a third straight day of political unrest over the Christmas period on Thursday (Dec 26) as police and protesters clashed inside shopping malls.

Protesters spent the afternoon on Thursday marching through multiple malls chanting anti-government and anti-police slogans.

Riot police swooped on dozens of black-clad protesters in one mall in Tai Po district using pepper spray as well as blue dye to mark suspects, said an AFP reporter on the scene.

Further clashes broke out in four other malls with police making multiple arrests and many shops shuttering their store fronts on what would normally be a bumper day.

READ: 'It doesn't matter if it's Christmas': Hong Kong activists keep up protests

READ: 'We can celebrate later': Hong Kongers pen Christmas cards to protesters

Plainclothed police officers detain a protester during a demonstration at a shopping mall in Hong Kong on Dec 26, 2019. (Photo: AP/Vincent Yu)

Dozens of police with batons and shields surrounded and sealed off the Langham Place shopping mall in Kowloon's Tsim Sha Tsui district after black-clad, masked protesters occupied it.

"I think the purpose for us to come out is to... let people realize that so many front-line protesters sacrificed (things) for them. They should not forget and (simply) celebrate Christmas," said Sandy, a young demonstrator who wore a black mask to hide her identity.

"We have been fighting for almost seven months now, and the Hong Kong police have done so many bad things."

Protesters carry a flag reading "Liberate Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Times" as they march through a shopping mall in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on Dec 26, 2019. (Photo: AP/Vincent Yu)
Riot police walk through a shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong on Dec 26, 2019. (Photo: AP/Lee Jin-man)

Hong Kong has been battered by more than six months of protests that has upended the financial hub's reputation for stability and helped tip the city into recession.

The city's many malls have become regular protest venues as demonstrators try to cause economic disruption and pressure the city's pro-Beijing leadership.

Protesters dressed as Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, a police officer and China's President Xi Jinping, walk during a rally inside a shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong on Dec 24, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)
A man with a Santa hat stands in front of riot police during a protest in Mong Kok district in Hong Kong on Dec 25, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

The last month had seen a relative drop-off in violence and protests after pro-democracy candidates won a landslide at local elections.

But with Beijing and city leaders refusing further concessions, rallies and clashes have reignited over the Christmas period.

PROTESTERS 'RUINED' CHRISTMAS

Christmas Eve saw some of the worst violence in weeks as protesters and police fought running battles for hours in a busy shopping district.

Sporadic and less severe clashes broke out again inside malls on Christmas Day.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said violent protesters had "ruined" Christmas.

READ: 'We're all family now': Protesters gather for free Christmas dinner in Hong Kong

READ: Hong Kong's New Year's fireworks cancelled amid security concerns

Protesters queue for a free Christmas dinner offered by a local restaurant in Hong Kong, on Dec 25, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
Post-it notes cover the front of a local restaurant offering protesters free Christmas dinner in Hong Kong, on Dec 25, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The government issued a new statement on Thursday condemning protesters for using violence over the last six months.

"Unprecedented violence, reckless and organised destruction became the norm," the statement said.

Protest groups counter that they have been left with little choice but to hit the streets wiht increasingly radical tactics because Beijing and Lam continue to dig their heels in.

Swathes of the population are seething against Beijing's rule and the semi-autonomous city's administration as they push for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

The protests were initially sparked by a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland.

READ: Man detained after shot fired at Hong Kong police

Plainclothes police react as anti-government protesters throw an umbrella at them after a protester (centre, on ground) was detained in a shopping mall in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong on Dec 24, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)
People cover their faces against the lingering stench of tear gas inside a restaurants as police fired tear gas on the street to disperse bystanders during a protest in Tsim Sha Tsui district in Hong Kong on Dec 24, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

They have since morphed into a popular revolt against Beijing's control, with spiralling fears that the city is losing some of its unique liberties.

Among the demands being made by protesters are an inquiry into the police, amnesty for the more than 6,000 people arrested, and the right to elect Hong Kong's leader.

China denies clamping down on Hong Kong's freedoms and has painted the protest movement as a foreign-funded plot to destabilise the motherland, dismissing any of the movement's political grievances as legitimate.

READ: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

Follow us on Telegram for the latest on Hong Kong: https://cna.asia/telegram

Source: AFP/reuters/zl/ec

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