The clashes erupted after police intervened to clear the traditional Hong Kong street food vendors. 24 people arrested, including members of anti-China groups. Police accused of using too much violence.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Calm only returned this morning to the crowded Mong Kok district after a night of clashes between the police who even opened fire into the air as hundreds of demonstrators threw bottles, bricks and flower pots at the police. At least 24 people were arrested. Among them members of the Hong Kong Indigenous Group, an anti-China group that defends the local culture. 48 people, including policemen and journalists, were injured.
The violence broke out last night when some safety and hygiene inspectors tried to close down street vendors. Precarious shacks and street carts are typical in Hong Kong and especially in the Mong Kok district and subway stations. Depending on the season they sell fruit, tofu, soup and fish treats. Usually the police turn a blind eye and allow this minimal trade that allows people to eat cheaply on the go and save time and money. But this year the police have decided to intervene. When the police arrived, hundreds of people came out onto the streets to defend the hawkers and chaos erupted. Riots, beatings, arrests lasted until the small hours well after midnight.
On social networks the riots were dubbed as "fish ball revolution". Many people - including some witnesses - say the police were too violent and even beat up passersby. The police accused "radical elements with handmade weapons and shields who clashed with the police."
The episode is strange because it took place on the first day of the Chinese New Year, a period which is characterized by friendship and family and social harmony. But it is a sign of the tensions boiling under the surface within the society, marked by economic difficulties and a growing pessimism toward the government authorities and law enforcement agencies increasingly seen as "servants of China and its interests," without any care for the people of Hong Kong.