Hong Kong police are moving to shut down an important source of funding for the city's pro-Democracy movement that has kept protesters on the front lines out of bondage. The crackdown has led to doubts about the future of the protest movement, since organizers' ability to match funds, food and shelter with "professional" protesters who require all of those things to remain on the front lines, has been critical to the movement's longevity.
But on the streets, a dedicated core of demonstrators continue to disrupt daily life in Hong Kong's centers of industry and commerce.
Bloomberg reports that crowds of protesters flooded the city's shopping malls on Thursday for the Boxing Day holiday in a third-straight day of protests.
Pro-democracy protesters gathered in the afternoon of Boxing Day at shopping centers. Dozens of black-clad demonstrators were roaming around at Sogo department store in Causeway Bay chanting slogans while riot police stopped and searched people in Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui, according to Radio Television Hong Kong. The protesters are hoping to attract attention to their cause by forcing malls and stores to close.
According to Reuters, the number of protesters who turned out on Thursday was lower than the previous two days.
In a reflection of the reason for the Christmas holiday season, protesters have been gathering at malls and shopping centers for the past few days, forcing numerous confrontations with police. Hundreds of protesters dressed in the traditional all-black uniform of the pro-democracy movement flooded the malls and shopping centers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Some wore antlers in what appeared to be an ironic commentary.
Bloomberg blamed the unrest for capping off an "abysmal" six-month stretch for Hong Kong retailers, who have suffered through a double-digit drop in sales as the protests have scared off the tourists and visitors from the mainland.
Protests are expected to continue into the New Year, with no end in sight (unless Carrie Lam's government bends to their five demands, which doesn't seem likely). Lam has reportedly said she would resign if Beijing would allow it, but it seems President Xi is insistent that Lam clean up the mess she helped create.
For her part, Lam mostly whined about how the protesters "ruined" her holiday. But after the year she has had, we couldn't think of anything more appropriate.
"Many members of the public and tourists coming to Hong Kong were naturally disappointed that their Christmas Eve celebrations have been ruined by a group of reckless and selfish rioters," Lam said in a Facebook post on Christmas Day.
In a separate statement on Thursday, the government criticized "unprecedented violence" and vandalism committed by some protesters, and insisted that defending human rights remained a top priority.
Protesters, meanwhile, accused the police of unnecessary violence and brutality, and for conducting body searches without any legal cause. Police accused the protesters of "vandalism" and tried to disperse them using pepper spray and batons, as well as water cannons once the protesters had been forced out of the malls and back into the streets. Protesters blocked several roads in central Hong Kong, and have also been blamed for destroying a bank branch. Petrol bombs were thrown, and more than 100 people have been arrested already.
Unlike in mainland China, Christmas is celebrated as a public holiday, even though just 12% of the population identifies as Christian. Still, the influence of the city's British colonial heritage is being celebrated now more than ever.
According to CNN, one protester was hospitalized with moderate injuries after falling several feet after a failed attempt at running from the cops.
Hong Kong Watch, a UK-based non- governmental organization, accused the force of committing "truly outrageous police brutality" on Christmas Eve.
If previous protest movements have shown us anything, it's that the youth of Hong Kong won't be easily pacified.
The movement began in June in response to the government's attempt to fast-track an extradition bill that would have opened up Hong Kongers (and anybody just passing through) to prosecution in mainland courts. The bill was eventually scrapped, but the government was slow to act, and by the time the bill was abandoned, the movement had morphed into a broader pro-democracy coalition with a list of demands that Beijing would seemingly never accept.