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Protesters target Hong Kong's malls during Christmas break

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Hong Kong's shopping malls have become a flash point for protests during the Christmas holiday, with more rallies set for Thursday.

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's shopping malls have become a flash point for protests during the Christmas holiday, with more rallies set for Thursday.

Pro-democracy demonstrations have been called for the afternoon of Boxing Day at shopping centres in areas including Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui, according to notices distributed through social media. The protesters are hoping to attract attention to their cause by forcing malls and stores to close, according to the notices.

Shopping centres have been among the sites of confrontations between protesters and police in each of the past two days. Police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators inside a mall in Kowloon Bay on Christmas Day, according to local broadcaster Cable TV. Malls were also the scene for some of the clashes that occurred Christmas Eve, which left about two dozen people injured.

The tumult over the holiday adds to what has been an abysmal six-month period for Hong Kong's retailers. Not only has the unrest dissuaded many of the city's residents from visiting stores, it's also sapped the flow of tourists, especially those from mainland China. The most-recent data for retail sales in Hong Kong, once a mecca for shoppers, showed a record 24.3 per cent plunge.

Protests are also set to continue heading into the New Year holiday. Gatherings are already scheduled for the New Town Plaza in Sha Tin on Friday and in Sheung Shui, an area near the Chinese border, during the weekend.

The Civil Human Rights Front, organiser of some of Hong Kong's biggest peaceful protests, is calling for a Jan 1 march through the city's centre. The organiser said it has applied for a police permit.

BLOOMBERG