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Hong Kong braces for more disruption after Christmas protests

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Hong Kong braced for more disruption over the holidays following protests over Christmas that led to clashes between demonstrators and riot police.

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong braced for more disruption over the holidays following protests over Christmas that led to clashes between demonstrators and riot police.

Gatherings are scheduled on Friday at the New Town Plaza shopping mall in Shatin and over the weekend in Sheung Shui, an area near the Chinese border. Those will lead up to a major rally on Jan 1 organised by the Civil Human Rights Front, which has helmed some of the biggest peaceful protests since the demonstrations against China's tightening grip over Hong Kong began in June. The organiser is still waiting for a police permit.

Pro-democracy protesters gathered in the afternoon of Boxing Day at shopping centers. Dozens of black-clad demonstrators were roaming around at Sogo department store in Causeway Bay chanting slogans while riot police stopped and searched people in Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui, according to Radio Television Hong Kong.

Shopping centres have been the centre of confrontations between protesters and police over 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.

"Many members of the public and tourists coming to Hong Kong were naturally disappointed that their Christmas Eve celebrations have been ruined by a group of reckless and selfish rioters," Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement on Thursday. "Such illegal acts have not only dampened the festive mood but also adversely affected local businesses. The government will try its utmost best to uphold law and order, and restore peace in Hong Kong."

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.

BLOOMBERG