Police fire tear gas into crowds during Hong Kong New Year protests

Police fired tear gas and shot water cannons into crowds during Hong Kong’s New Year protests Wednesday, news reports say. 

Protests began peacefully at first, until some participants vandalized multiple branches of a bank, prompting police to call a cancellation to the previously approved rally and use tear gas and pepper spray on the crowd.

About 400 people appeared to be detained, adding to the more than 6,000 arrested since the protests began, The Washington Post reported


As the demonstrations continued, they became more chaotic. Protesters started barricading roads, lit fires and armed themselves with bricks from sidewalks and petrol bombs, NBC News reported and the Washington Post reported. Police said the group damaged traffic lights and threw trash as well, which led law enforcement to use water cannons against the demonstrators in two locations.

The protests developed into one of the biggest gatherings in Hong Kong in weeks as the country enters its seventh month of unrest. Organizers of the rally estimated more than one million people attended, but police say it was about 60,000.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the rally, targeted police after they shut down the protest, saying the police used an “absurd excuse” to stop the rally. 

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government told the Post that the protest went “generally smooth and orderly.” He also requested demonstrators avoid illegal activity.

Hong Kong “has all along respected people’s rights and freedoms to participate in peaceful processions and assemblies and express views rationally, as these are the important core values cherished by Hong Kong people,” the spokesperson said.

The Hong Kong protests erupted in June after a bill allowing charged prisoners to be extradited to China was proposed. It has since been withdrawn.

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