There was an inauspicious start to the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong when riots broke out in the Mongkok district on Monday night. The trouble flared when police cracked down on unlicenced fishball vendors. From this seemingly trivial beginning the mood quickly worsened, with young protesters lobbing bricks at the police and lighting fires. Riot police were called in and shots were fired into the air, shocking those watching television footage of the midnight mayhem.
According to local media, 19 police were injured and at least 64 members of the public were arrested. A police spokesman told the South China Morning Post: “Radical elements have come with self-made weapons and shields and clashed with police. The situation ran out of control and became a riot.”
CNN noted that the Mongkok incident was all the more notable because “violence in the city is very rare and officers rarely have to unholster their weapons”. The clashes come at a time of worsening relations between Hong Kong and the central Chinese government, the US news channel added, with many Hongkongers concerned about encroachment from the mainland authorities on the city’s freedoms.
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