Hong Kong police have announced they will block vehicles on only one road in Tsim Sha Tsui for Tuesday’s Christmas Eve celebrations, following online calls for unlawful anti-government protests in the area.
Senior Superintendent Wong Wai-shun on Monday announced traffic would be blocked only on Kowloon Park Drive in Tsim Sha Tsui – a neighbourhood famous for its neon light displays and decorations – on Christmas Eve.
The announcement deviates from the long-established tradition in which police officers seal off almost the entire district, from the south of Salisbury Road to a large portion of Nathan Road to the north, for revellers to walk around.
But in recent months the shopping hub has been badly hit by the anti-government protests, which are now in their seventh month.
Wong said the force considered the arrangement to be appropriate after a full assessment of the intelligence it had gathered.
“More problems could arise if we block the roads,” he said, but added that police would make adjustments according to the situation on the ground on Tuesday.
Many roads commonly used by the festive crowd at this time of the year were earlier turned into protest battlegrounds. Shopping malls and arcades were caught up in clashes between protesters and police.
Many radicals also vandalised business establishments with ties to mainland China.
Police had initially approved Tuesday’s march from Salisbury Road to Hung Hom between 6pm and 10pm. But the organising group later cancelled the application as police refused its request to hold the march between 8pm and 1am. Police also refused to allow the march to end on Nathan Road.
But despite the police decisions, calls continue to emerge online urging people to show up for the protest. Wong warned on Monday that those who turned up would risk being arrested for taking part in an unlawful assembly. He also said police would enforce the law stringently in the face of any violent acts.
Incoming district councillor Chu Tsz-lok, who will assume office in January in his Tsim Sha Tsui East seat, said some police measures adopted in recent months to curb protests had already infuriated local residents. “If local residents are so angry, how can revellers feel otherwise?” he asked.
Several roads on Hong Kong Island, including East Point Road in Causeway Bay and Queen’s Road, will also remain blocked on Tuesday to enhance security.
On Monday, Citizens’ Press Conference, a self-styled representative group of the protesters, called on people to “take to the streets” on Christmas Eve and on the following day to “celebrate”.
Denying that they were trying to stir up trouble, a spokesman for the group said: “It is only natural for people to go out to celebrate. I just hope police do not intervene. Tear gas has no place in [a] festival.”
But he refused to elaborate on the group’s plans.
As in the past, the representatives of the group wore masks and black clothes while speaking to journalists on Monday.
Many others also issued calls on the internet to take part in afternoon marches during Christmas and Boxing Day across Hong Kong.
We learn something every day, and lots of times it’s that what we learned the day before was wrong.