There may have been no official New Year's Eve fireworks last night, but protesters blocked roads, started fires, let off fireworks and disrupted traffic, prompting police to fire several rounds of tear gas.
Well into the early hours of New Year’s Day, protesters and riot police officers were locked in a stand-off in Mong Kok on Nathan Road. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, and a first-aid volunteer was hit.
In Yau Ma Tei, at least five rounds of tear gas were fired on Waterloo Road shortly after protesters were warned by police that they were taking part in an unlawful assembly.
Earlier, more than 1,000 people had formed human chains in various districts, including Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Tai Po and Tuen Mun, and along Nathan Road from Tsim Sha Tsui to Mong Kok.
Some also marched along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, calling on citizens to join a New Year’s Day protest march by chanting, “January 1, see you in Victoria Park”.
There had also been signs earlier that some trouble lay ahead.
In Tuen Mun, Light Rail services were affected after a petrol bomb was reportedly thrown in the area at around 9.30pm. No one was injured in the incident.
Officers were also investigating a suspected arson attack on vehicles parked near Tsuen Wan Police Station. Initial information suggested that petrol bombs were thrown at the scene.
Half an hour before midnight, police deployed a water cannon along Nathan Road in Mong Kok and fired a pepper-based solution at protesters and passers-by several times, hitting several journalists.
Earlier, officers had raised a blue flag warning protesters gathered outside Mong Kok Police Station that they were taking part in an unlawful assembly.
At around 9pm, masked protesters occupied roads by setting up barricades near Nathan Road and Prince Edward Road West in Mong Kok. Riot police were later deployed to clear the crowd and a mini bulldozer was sent to remove the barricades.
Riot police stopped and searched protesters and shoppers near the atrium of Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui and on the ground floor of Times Square, after dozens of people heeded the calls to stage “shopping protests” in the two popular malls in the evening. About 30 mostly black-clad demonstrators had earlier started walking around in Times Square, chanting slogans and stopping lifts by pressing the emergency buttons.
At Prince Edward MTR station, police fired pepper spray to disperse protesters who were there to commemorate the four-month anniversary of the August 31 incident, in which police went after radicals into train compartments and were later accused of attacking regular commuters. At least four people were subdued.
Ahead of Wednesday’s pro-democracy march, police said they had discovered six plastic jerry cans of petrol along with 51 empty bottles on a hillside in Tsz Wan Shan, which they suspected were to be used to make petrol bombs to cause chaos at public events around new year.
Chief Inspector Wong Yi-wai, of Kowloon East regional crime unit, said police learned the site was being used to store the dangerous goods from suspects who were arrested on Tuesday morning in connection with violent acts during recent protests.
Wong said the amount seized was enough to produce more than 100 petrol bombs.
“Police have reasons to believe [the petrol bombs] would have been used at public events today or tomorrow and the purpose was to cause panic and chaos,” he said.