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Hong Kong police use tear gas, pepper spray on Christmas Eve protesters

PHILIP FONG / Contributor

While many across the world are spending Christmas Eve doing last minute shopping and spending time with family, protesters in Hong Kong are continuing to experience violent clashes with the police as they seek to secure additional freedoms and autonomy from the Chinese government.

According to Bloomberg News, hundreds of citizens turned out in various Hong Kong shopping districts in the latest round of protests, which have now lasted more than six months and have often turned violent.

Police were reported to have fired tear gas canisters around 9pm local time at a crowd that gathered outside the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, and also to have used pepper spray on protesters inside other shopping malls and centers throughout the city. Chinese state media reported that a handful of arrests were made.

The protests, which occurred on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, further added to the economic unrest in Hong Kong, which has been severely impacted by the protracted civil unrest.

The protests began when the local government proposed a bill that would have allowed the government to extradite fugitives to mainland China for trial and punishment. Although that bill was ultimately withdrawn, the protest movement it provoked has lingered on, as citizens of Hong Kong have continually fought to secure additional democratic freedoms and independence from Chinese rule.

One of the most important remaining concessions the protesters are seeking from the Chinese government is the right to elect their own city leaders directly.

The duration and intensity of the protests in Hong Kong have captured the attention and imagination of much of the world, and have proved to be a major embarrassment for the Chinese government. They additionally caused controversy in the United States when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters, leading to a major rift between the NBA — which makes millions off its partnership with China — and the Chinese government.

Many NBA players, coaches, and executives were harshly criticized by fans across the political spectrum for refusing to take a stand in support of Morey and/or the protesters for fear of endangering endorsement deals.

Some protesters have engaged in mass peaceful marches, whereas others have engaged in more unruly tactics and taken a more hardline approach in their demands. Some of the latter organizers have promised a continuation of the protests on Christmas Day and over the New Year, according to MSN.

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