Hong Kong Bans All Non-Residents Over Coronavirus

Friends have a drink as a projection is shown of a live press conference held by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hong Kong on March 23, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
Friends have a drink as a projection is shown of a live press conference held by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Hong Kong on March 23, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

Hong Kong will ban all non-residents from entering the financial hub from midnight on Tuesday evening in a bid to halt the coronavirus, its leader said Monday, as she also ordered restaurants and bars to stop serving alcohol.

Despite its proximity to the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong has managed to stave off a runaway outbreak of the deadly virus partly thanks to the public overwhelmingly embracing face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.

Yet in the last two weeks, the number of cases has more than doubled to 356 infections after locals and foreign residents flooded back once the pandemic spread to Europe and North America.

On Monday chief executive Carrie Lam announced a raft of measures designed to stymie the rising number of infections.

“From midnight of March 25, all non-Hong Kong residents flying in from overseas will not be allowed into the city,” she said, adding the order would be in place for at least two weeks.

The city’s airport — the eighth busiest in the world — would also bar all transit passengers, Lam added.

Non-residents will still be allowed to enter Hong Kong from the Chinese mainland, Macau and Taiwan but not if they have been to any other foreign country in the last 14 days.

Some 8,600 restaurants and bars with a licence will also be banned from selling alcohol but will, for now, be allowed to remain open.

Lam did not specify when the booze ban would be brought in, but said emergency legislation was being drafted.

She said there was concern that Hong Kongers were losing their inhibitions when they go out drinking.

“Sometimes when people drink more, there may be some intimate acts,” she told reporters.

Supermarkets and alcohol retailers are not covered by ban on sales.

‘One night stands’

Health officials had become increasingly alarmed about people gathering in large numbers in the city’s entertainment districts in recent weeks.

Last week, a slew of infections was found among patients who had all been out in Lan Kwai Fong, the city’s most famous nightclub street.

Hong Kong’s tabloids ran lurid pieces saying one of the infected patients who went to bars in Lan Kwai Fong, a local, may have had one night stands.

The vast majority of the recent spike in infections have been from Hong Kong nationals returning to the city.

But there has also been some anger directed at the drinking habits of some western white-collar workers as many of the city’s inhabitants isolate themselves.

Last week the Apple Daily newspaper carried a front-page photograph of a big group of foreigners drinking in the open while sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, causing outrage on social media.

Restaurant groups had urged the government to allow them to remain open.

The partial booze ban appears to be a compromise — a way to reduce the number of people socialising without ordering a complete shutdown of the already struggling food and drink industry.

AFP

Coronavirus: Nine Family Members Feared Infected After Sharing Meal

 

Nine members of a Hong Kong family are feared to be infected with the coronavirus after sharing a hotpot meal, officials said Sunday.

Two members of the family — a 24-year-old man and his grandmother, who is in her 90s — are confirmed to have the virus, while seven more have returned preliminarily positive results for the disease, health authorities said.

Two more relatives are waiting for their results.

Officials said the family was part of a gathering of 19 who shared a hotpot meal over the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January.

A hotpot — also known as a steamboat — is a bubbling cauldron of stock shared communally, to which diners add ingredients.

First found in the city of Wuhan in central China last December, the coronavirus has infected more than 36,000 people on the mainland and at least 29 in Hong Kong.

More than 800 people have died on the mainland, and one death has been reported in Hong Kong.

The semi-autonomous city began enforcing a 14-day quarantine period on Saturday for all people arriving from mainland China, in a fresh bid to curb the spread of the virus.

The city’s health minister said Sunday that around 470 people have so far been ordered to stay at home, in hotel rooms or at a government quarantine camp since the policy took effect.

Hong Kong To Quarantine Mainland China Arrivals

Pedestrians wear face masks in Hong Kong on February 5, 2020, as a preventative measure following a virus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. More Chinese cities hunkered down by fencing off streets and telling millions of people to stay home as the death toll from the new coronavirus soared to nearly 500 on February 5. Hong Kong now has 18 confirmed infections, the majority of people who were infected in mainland China.
Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

Hong Kong announced Wednesday a mandatory two-week quarantine for all travellers from mainland China, in a bid to stop more cases of the deadly new coronavirus.

The quarantine order, which will come into force on Saturday, will apply to Hong Kong residents and foreigners, chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters.

Lam gave few other details about how the quarantine would be implemented, such as where and how arrivals would be isolated but said it was designed to stop them coming.

“The measure is harsh. But I believe after we say all arrivals have to be quarantined for 14 days from February 8 the number of arrivals will reduce,” Lam said.

“Who would want to enter Hong Kong from the mainland and be quarantined for as long as 14 days? In view of this, we shouldn’t have to deal with a large number of arrivals who need to go through compulsory quarantine.”

Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous southern Chinese territory, has 21 confirmed cases of the virus, one of whom died on Tuesday.

Over the last two weeks, Lam has faced growing calls to close the border with China.

Lam’s administration cut the number of land border crossings to just two, which reduced the flow significantly but failed to placate critics.

Lam had said closing the border would be impractical, economically damaging and discriminatory.

Immigration figures on Tuesday showed about 10,000 mainlanders used the border crossings and the international airport to enter Hong Kong.

Another 33,000 Hong Kong residents were also using the two remaining land border crossings.

AFP

Hong Kong Slashes Border Crossings With China Over Coronavirus

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam (L) gestures as she takes part in a press conference while wearing a facemask in Hong Kong on January 28, 2020. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

Hong Kong on Tuesday announced drastic measures to cut the number of people crossing into the city from mainland China in a bid to curb the spread of a SARS-like virus that has already killed more than 100 people.

With tour groups from the mainland suspended earlier, the new measures blocking individual travellers will dramatically reduce the number of Chinese able to visit the semi-autonomous city.

The number of flights from the mainland to Hong Kong will be halved and all ferry services suspended to “reduce the mobility of people from both sides”, city leader Carrie Lam said, adding six of 14 border checkpoints will close from January 30 “until further notice”.

Cathay Pacific Airways, which has its main hub at Hong Kong International Airport, announced that it would be “progressively reducing” flights to and from mainland China by at least half from January 30 to the end of March.

The decision was taken “in light of the Government Response Plan of novel coronavirus infection and in view of market demand,” the airline said on its website.

Hong Kong has declared the new coronavirus a public emergency and on Saturday ramped up measures to reduce the risk of more infections.

Eight people in the city are known to be suffering from the illness. Of those, six arrived via the high-speed train line that connects to the Chinese mainland.

Lam said that with the “approval of the central government”, mainland China will suspend issuing permits for individual visitors in 49 Chinese cities.

The announcement came after growing calls from some politicians and medical experts for a complete shutdown of the mainland border to those not from Hong Kong.

“The epidemic has spread to many Chinese provinces. Blocking visitors from only Hubei (the centre of the outbreak) can’t do much to help Hong Kong,” pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong said on Tuesday.

But major checkpoints on the land border with the neighbouring mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen will still be open.

“If we close the border and do not let anyone coming in and out of Hong Kong, the impact will be far-reaching,” Lam said.

“We appeal Hong Kong residents to return to the city from mainland as soon as possible,” Lam said, urging people who come back to stay at home for 14 days.

The government said earlier it would close a range of public facilities to “avoid people gathering”.

Sports centres, grounds, swimming pools, beaches, campsites and sites including museums will all close.

The city’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department said events at these locations would be cancelled until further notice.

Officials have also announced that all schools will extend their Lunar New Year holiday to mid-February and civil servants have been told to work from home.

Apart from Hong Kong local residents, anyone who has visited Hubei province in the last two weeks has been denied entry to Hong Kong from Monday.

AFP

Hong Kong Protesters Beat Police Officers For Disbanding Democracy Rally

People take part in the ‘universal siege on communists’ rally at Chater Garden in Hong Kong on January 19, 2020.  Philip FONG / AFP

 

Two police officers were beaten bloody by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong Sunday as violence erupted at a rally calling for greater democratic freedoms in the heart of the city.

Trouble flared when police ordered the authorised gathering to disperse after officers conducting stop and searches on nearby streets had water bottles and paint thrown at them by angry crowds.

A group of plainclothes officers who were speaking with organisers were then set upon by masked protesters, who beat them with umbrellas and sticks, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

Two officers were seen with bloody head wounds as colleagues shielded them from further attacks.

“We strongly condemn all the rioters and violent acts,” police spokesman Ng Lok-chun told reporters.

Video posted online showed an organiser with a microphone asking the officers to show their warrant cards which they did not do, a frequent gripe among protesters.

Rally organiser Ventus Lau said he believed police should “shoulder the greatest responsibility for the clashes” because they took too long to show their warrant cards.

Lau was later arrested for obstructing officers, police and rally organisers confirmed.

Soon after the officers were attacked, riot police swept into the area and fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Brief cat and mouse clashes ensued with police making multiple arrests, including one protester who had blood streaming from the back of his head.

‘Stand with Hong Kong’ 

Hong Kong’s protests have raged for seven months after being sparked by a now-abandoned proposal to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, where the opaque legal system answers to the Communist Party.

They soon morphed into a wider movement calling for greater freedoms in what is the most concerted challenge to Beijing’s rule since the former British colony’s 1997 handover.

At Sunday’s rally, thousands gathered in the heart of the Central commercial district, chanting slogans such as “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom”.

Some waved American, British and Hong Kong independence flags. There were many families and children present with a peaceful atmosphere until the police ordered the crowds to leave.

The frequency and ferocity of Hong Kong’s protests have died down over the last month, but signs of the political unrest are everywhere, from graffiti daubed on walls to huge fences surrounding government buildings.

The city’s police force is now loathed by large swathes of the city, heckled by crowds both at protest sites and in their local neighbourhoods.

Critics accuse police of using excessive force, with no police officer disciplined or punished in the last seven months of protests.

Police say they have used force commensurate with the levels of violence they face from hardcore protesters who routinely throw bricks and petrol bombs.

The force has blamed viral social media videos of officers making hard arrests and media coverage for their plummeting reputation among the city’s inhabitants.

Among key demands of the protest movement are an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for 7,000 people arrested and fully free elections.

Beijing and local leader Carrie Lam have refused further concessions and defended police tactics.

AFP

China Claims NGOs Supported Hong Kong Unrest And ‘Should Be Punished’

China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang

 

China on Monday defended barring the head of Human Rights Watch from entering Hong Kong, saying non-governmental organisations were responsible for political unrest in the city and should “pay the proper price”.

Kenneth Roth was supposed to give a press conference in Hong Kong this week to unveil the New York-based rights group’s latest global survey, which accuses China of prosecuting “an intensive attack” on international human rights agencies.

The long-time executive director said Sunday that he was turned back by authorities at the city’s airport.

China last month announced sanctions on American NGOs, including HRW, in retaliation for the passage of a US bill backing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

“Allowing or not allowing someone’s entry is China’s sovereign right,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

“Plenty of facts and evidence show that the relevant NGO has through various means supported anti-China radicals, encouraged them to engage in extremist, violent and criminal activity, and incited Hong Kong independence separatist activities,” Geng said.

“They bear major responsibility for the current chaos in Hong Kong. These organisations should be punished, and should pay the proper price.”

Hong Kong has been battered by nearly seven months of occasionally violent protests, its biggest political crisis in decades.

Millions have turned out on the streets of the semi-autonomous financial hub to demand greater democratic freedoms.

Not the first

Roth joins a growing list of openly critical academics, researchers, politicians and activists who have been refused entry in recent years.

Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet was denied a visa renewal without reason in 2018 after he hosted a talk with the leader of a small and now banned independence party at the city’s press club.

Last September, an American academic was barred from entering after he testified in a Congressional hearing alongside prominent Hong Kong democracy activists.

“I had hoped to spotlight Beijing’s deepening assault on international efforts to uphold human rights,” Roth said. “The refusal to let me enter Hong Kong vividly illustrates the problem.”

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said that when Roth asked why he was prevented from entering Hong Kong, he was only told that it was “immigration reasons”.

“What we believe is that he was stopped because the Chinese government is afraid to have the world know what they are doing to the people of Hong Kong and the people of China,” Robertson told AFP in Bangkok.

The unrest that began last June is the biggest crisis the former British colony has faced since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Under the terms of the handover, Hong Kong enjoys unique freedoms unseen on the mainland, but in recent years fears have increased that these liberties are being chipped away as Beijing exerts more control over the territory.

China and the Hong Kong administration have refused to cede to the protesters’ demands, which include fully free elections in the city, an inquiry into alleged police misconduct, and amnesty for the nearly 6,500 people arrested during the movement — nearly a third of them under the age of 20.

Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which was to host Roths’ press conference on Wednesday, said in a statement it was concerned that the city’s government was using the immigration department to “act punitively against organisations and media representatives it does not agree with, which is a violation of the commitment to free expression and free speech in Hong Kong law.”

 

AFP

China Reports First Death From Mystery Virus Outbreak

 

China on Saturday reported the first death from a virus believed to be from the same family as the SARS pathogen that killed hundreds in China and Hong Kong more than a decade ago.

Forty-one people with pneumonia-like symptoms have so far been diagnosed with the new type of coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where it was first confirmed, with one of the victims dying, the city’s health commission said on its website.

Seven others remained in serious condition while two were discharged from treatment, it added, saying the latest tally was completed on Friday.

The commission did not specify when the death occurred or give further details on the patient other than to say the bulk of those diagnosed worked at a Wuhan seafood market that was closed January 1 following the outbreak.

The episode has caused alarm due to the link to SARS, or Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

READ ALSO: Iran Accepts Shooting Down Ukraine Passenger Plane ‘Unintentionally’

State-run Xinhua news agency reported on Friday that Chinese scientists investigating the outbreak had made a “preliminary” determination that it was a previously unknown type of coronavirus.

The WHO says coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which emerged in 2012 and also caused scores of deaths.

“No new cases have been detected since January 3, 2020,” the Wuhan health commission said.

“At present, no infections among medical staff have been found, and no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found.”

Wuhan authorities had earlier said 59 people had fallen ill, but Saturday’s statement suggests that not all have been confirmed as cases of the new virus.

The outbreak was first confirmed on December 31 in Wuhan, which has a population of more than 11 million.

Authorities in Hong Kong have since taken precautions including stepping up the disinfection of trains and planes, and checks of passengers.

The WHO, however, said Thursday it was not recommending any specific measures for travellers, nor the application of any trade or travel restrictions on China based on current information, expressing confidence in the ability of Chinese authorities to manage the situation.

China has since ruled out a fresh recurrence of SARS.

Travel Rush Looms

China has entered its annual Lunar New Year holiday travel rush, raising the spectre of the mass movement of people serving as a vector for the pathogen’s spread.

In the world’s largest annual human migration, hundreds of millions of people are expected to pack together on trains, buses and planes for the Lunar New Year holiday that this year falls in late January.

Authorities have said 400 million train tickets have been purchased for holiday-related travel, with hundreds of millions more expected to travel by air and road.

China has not announced any travel restrictions.

Authorities in Hong Kong have said 48 people have been hospitalised in recent days after returning from Wuhan and displaying flu-like illnesses, but none were confirmed to have contracted the new coronavirus.

City residents worried about the outbreak have rushed to buy face masks from local pharmacies, with many selling out earlier this week.

The coming holiday has prompted concerns in Taiwan, where officials urged the island’s health and welfare ministry to strengthen quarantine controls at airports.

The US embassy in China warned on Tuesday that Americans travelling in the country should avoid animals and contact with sick people.

AFP

Asian Markets Mostly Higher As Iran Fears Recede, Eyes On US Jobs

People wait to cross a street in front of a stock indicator displaying share prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on January 9, 2020. BEHROUZ MEHRI / AFP

 

Most Asian markets rose Friday but investors were struggling to maintain a rally triggered by easing US-Iran tensions the previous day as focus turned back to the global economic outlook.

The toning down of rhetoric from Donald Trump and Tehran following an Iranian missile attack on US assets in Iraq soothed concerns about a possible conflict in the Middle East and lit a fire under global equities on Thursday.

That has allowed dealers to resume their buying spree that had characterised business for the past few weeks, cheered by China and the United States reaching a trade deal, central banks easing monetary policy and data pointing to an improved global outlook.

“Even though we are hitting close to or near all-time highs, we still feel pretty excited about this market,” Invesco strategist Timothy Horsburgh told Bloomberg TV.

“What we’ve seen over the past couple of days with some of this relief rally, this is indicative of a market that’s wanted to go higher for a while now as a result of better fundamentals and a little bit of optimism around reaccelerating growth here in the US.”

Wall Street’s three main indexes racked up fresh records and Asia broadly followed suit, though the gains were light.

Tokyo ended 0.5 percent up, Seoul added 0.9 percent and Sydney jumped 0.8 percent, while Singapore put on 0.2 percent, Taipei jumped 0.5 percent and Mumbai climbed 0.7 percent. Wellington, Bangkok and Jakarta also rose.

But Shanghai dropped 0.1 percent, while Manila lost 0.6 percent.

Oil falls further

There appeared to be little negative market reaction to claims by Canada that Iran shot down an airliner in Tehran this week, killing 176 people.

Investors are now looking to the release later in the day of US jobs figures for a better idea about the state of the world’s top economy, while next week sees China and the US put pen to paper on their mini trade deal.

The “critical payroll data comes as a most welcome distraction and will provide an essential update on the pace of US job gains”, said Stephen Innes at AxiTrader.

“With US economic growth mostly dependent on the consumer, a healthy labour market is crucial to any constructive ‘risk-on’ narrative”.

“With the market backdrop remaining supportive –- namely, improving macro, central bank easing, and receding… risk around trade, Brexit, and the Middle East, the path of least resistance remains up.”

Oil prices dipped, with the sharp gains enjoyed in the wake of the US assassination of Iran’s top general last week being wiped out. The commodity is now below levels seen before the killing early last Friday.

Innes added that with “the chance of a proxy or rogue threat of disruption to physical supply still elevated, we could see a floor start to build around current (price) levels”.

“At the same time, traders will now turn the focus back on the relatively pedestrian views around trade and data, which remain positive for oil.”

Key figures at 0710 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 23,850.57 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 28,609.63

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,092.29 (close)

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3083 from $1.3064 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.90 pence from 84.98 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1108 at $1.1105

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.57 yen from 109.51 yen

Brent Crude: DOWN eight cents at $65.29 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 10 cents at $59.46 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 28,956.90 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,598.12 (close)

China Replaces Top Envoy To Hong Kong

 

Chinese state media said Saturday the country had replaced its top envoy to Hong Kong, the most significant personnel change since democracy protests broke out in the city last year.

“Wang Zhimin has been dismissed from his position as head of the Liaison Office” for Hong Kong affairs and was replaced by Luo Huining, state broadcaster CCTV said, without giving details.

Hong Kong has been battered by nearly seven months of unrest — its biggest political crisis in decades — which has seen millions come out on the streets demanding greater democratic freedoms.

Police, Protesters Clash During Huge Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Rally

 

 

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy marchers thronged the streets of Hong Kong for a massive rally on New Year’s Day, looking to carry the momentum of their movement into 2020 as police and hardcore demonstrators faced off again.

Hong Kong has been battered by nearly seven months of often-violent unrest, with frequent clashes between the police and hardcore protesters as the city battles its biggest political crisis in decades.

Despite a peaceful start on Wednesday, violence erupted near the march as it snaked through the Wan Chai district on the financial hub’s main island. Riot police used pepper spray and tear gas, while hardcore protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails.

The Civil Human Rights Front, the umbrella group which organised the march, had permission for the march from city authorities, but they were ordered to end it soon after the clashes began.

“The police have… asked us to dismiss the rally,” the organisers told marchers using megaphones. “Please calmly and slowly leave the scene right now.”

In now-familiar scenes, riot police were seen taking positions at several locations, including the Wan Chai subway station.

Black-clad, masked protesters also gathered to set up makeshift barricades, while some businesses were vandalised in the afternoon.

The unrest in Hong Kong was sparked by a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, bringing millions out on to the streets in June last year. It has since morphed into a larger revolt against what many fear is Beijing’s tightening control.

Despite the continued unrest, China and the Hong Kong administration have refused to cede to the protesters’ demands, which include fully free elections in the city, an inquiry into alleged police misconduct, and amnesty for the nearly 6,500 people arrested during the movement — nearly a third of them under the age of 20.

“It is sad that our demands from 2019 need to be carried forward to 2020,” the CHRF’s Jimmy Sham said at the start of the rally.

Activists have accused the police of brutality and rights violations, while city authorities — and the central government in Beijing — have accused pro-democracy protesters of rioting.

China has also alleged that the unrest has been fanned by foreign powers, and has bristled at criticism from rights groups and governments of the way the protests have been handled so far.

‘Hopeless situation’

Hong Kong saw in the new year with an evening of peaceful protests that descended into tear gas-choked clashes between hardcore demonstrators and the police overnight.

Thousands of people linked arms to form human chains that stretched for miles along busy shopping streets and neighbourhoods on New Year’s Eve.

Later, protesters set fire to barricades in some parts of the city as the police launched 2020’s first volleys of tear gas and used water cannon to disperse the crowds.

The protest movement has become quieter since the city’s pro-democracy camp scored a landslide victory in a municipal-level vote in November — seen as a referendum on the Beijing-backed government — and violent clashes at some of the city’s university campuses.

But protesters have vowed to continue their fight for greater freedoms.

“Hong Kong people have been pushed to a hopeless situation. That’s why today we have to come out,” a masked protester said in a speech at the rally on Wednesday.

The unrest that began in June last year is the biggest crisis the former British colony has faced since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Under the terms of that handover, Hong Kong enjoys unique freedoms unseen on the mainland, but fears have increased in recent years that they are being chipped away as Beijing exerts more control over the territory.

Police Arrest 15 In Fresh Hong Kong Protests

Riot police detain a man (C) after a pro-democracy protest inside a shopping mall in Sheung Shui in Hong Kong on December 28, 2019. DALE DE LA REY / AFP

 

Hong Kong riot police arrested at least 15 people in clashes Saturday with dozens of pro-democracy protestors who targeted a mall near the border with China to demonstrate against mainland tourists and shoppers.

The fresh unrest ended a brief calm after protestors had battled riot police in shopping malls and streets of commercial districts across the city for three days over the Christmas period.

On Saturday afternoon, masked plain-clothed officers wielding batons arrested 14 people, including a 14-year-old girl, who were protesting inside the mall in Sheung Shui district, forcing shops to shut and harassing shoppers, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Riot police charged into the mall to reinforce the officers and used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of residents who gathered to protest against the arrests.

After the police left, some protesters stayed on a footbridge linking the mall to an MTR metro station and harassed passers-by they thought were mainland Chinese tourists.

Another man was arrested by riot police in a later incident inside the mall, his head covered in blood.

Similar protests and clashes also took place in a mall in Kowloon Bay district, where a number of people were arrested Saturday evening.

Blood and a black mask were seen by an AFP reporter on the floor where plain-clothed police subdued protesters in the mall.

In recent years Sheung Shui has been swamped by a huge influx of mainlanders and parallel traders seeking to circumvent Chinese taxes, angering many residents who have seen their local shops transformed to cater to the visitors.

Hong Kong’s many malls have become regular protest venues as protesters try to cause economic disruption in their push for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.

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 reignited over the Christmas period.

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

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

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

AFP

Police, Protesters Clash As Hong Kong Celebrates Christmas

A protester reacts after police fire tear gas to disperse bystanders in a protest in Jordan district in Hong Kong, on early December 25, 2019. Philip FONG / AFP

 

Hong Kong‘s Christmas celebrations were marred by sporadic clashes between police and pro-democracy activists on Wednesday as the city’s pro-Beijing leader said the festive season was being “ruined” by demonstrators.

Police used pepper spray and tear gas as activists held small flashmob protests in malls and multiple districts across the city.

In Mong Kok, an area that has seen frequent clashes over the last six months, police fired multiple rounds of tear gas to disperse crowds that were heckling officers, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Pepper spray was also used in at least two malls as police and protesters clashed. Multiple young protesters were detained, some by plainclothes police who had mixed with the crowds, according to live local TV broadcasts.

Wednesday’s skirmishes were less sustained than those on Christmas Eve, when battles between democracy activists and riot police swept through a major shopping district for hours.

That evening’s unrest was the most serious in what has otherwise been a few weeks of comparative calm for a city upended by more than six months of often-violent protests.

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray on Christmas Eve in multiple locations while protesters responded with throwing sporadic petrol bombs, blocking roads and vandalising businesses deemed to be sympathetic to the government.

Hong Kong‘s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday condemned the Christmas Eve protesters on Facebook, describing them as “reckless and selfish rioters”.

“Such illegal acts have not only dampened the festive mood but also adversely affected local businesses.”

Subdued Christmas

A former British colony with a sizeable Christian population, Christmas has been distinctly muted in Hong Kong this year.

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 months of protest have helped tip a financial hub already battered by the US-China trade war into a recession and intensified political polarisation.

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

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

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

The city’s many malls have become regular protest venues as demonstrators try to cause economic disruption.

Online forums have called for pop-up protests over the Christmas and New Year period targeting shopping districts.

The recent fall-off in violence came after hundreds of hardcore protesters were arrested during a university campus siege — and after the pro-democracy camp won a landslide in local elections — last month.

But both Lam and Beijing have refused any further concessions since that electoral defeat.

Earlier this month, a huge crowd of some 800,000 people marched peacefully.

The same group behind that rally have applied for permission to hold a similar march on New Year’s Day.

 

AFP