Hong Kong gears up for Christmas holiday protests

Hong Kong is gearing up for demonstrations over the Christmas week with protesters planning to gather in districts across the city, including in prime shopping malls, the latest in more than six months of unrest.

This week's protests follow a weekend of rallies, including one on Dec. 22, which ended in clashes when black-clad, masked demonstrators attacked police with kicks and punches and threw bricks and bottles.

Police responded with bursts of pepper spray. One officer drew his pistol and pointed it toward a crowd but did not fire, Reuters witnesses said.

Protesters plan to gather in five malls on Christmas eve, and will count down to Christmas near the city's harbor front in the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district.

Protests are also planned for various places on Christmas Day according to notices on social media.

The protests are now in their seventh month, albeit in a relative lull compared with the scale and intensity of earlier confrontations. Police have arrested more than 6,000 people since the protests intensified in June, including more than 52 in the past weekend.

Many Hong Kong residents are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China denies interfering and says it is committed to the "one country, two systems" formula put in place at that time and has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.

Many Hong Kong people are also furious at perceived police brutality and are demanding an independent investigation into it. Police deny using excessive force.

Other demands of the protesters include the release of all arrested demonstrators and full democracy.

Earlier on Dec. 22, more...

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