Hong Kong endured a third straight day of political unrest over the Christmas period Thursday as police and pro-democracy 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.