Hong Kong riot police have arrested at least 15 people in clashes with dozens of pro-democracy protesters who targeted a mall near the border with China to demonstrate against mainland tourists and shoppers.
On Saturday afternoon, masked plain-clothed officers wielding batons arrested 14 people, including a 14-year-old girl, who were protesting inside the mall in Sheung Shui district, forcing shops to shut and harassing shoppers.
Riot police charged into the mall to reinforce the officers and used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of residents who gathered to protest against the arrests. Similar protests and clashes also took place in a mall in Kowloon Bay district, where a number of people were arrested Saturday evening.
In recent years, Sheung Shui has been swamped by a huge influx of mainlanders and parallel traders seeking to circumvent Chinese taxes, angering many residents who have seen their local shops transformed to cater to the visitors.
Hong Kongís many malls have become regular protest venues as protesters try to cause economic disruption in their push for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.
The last month had seen a relative drop-off in violence and protests after pro-democracy candidates won a landslide at local elections. But with Beijing and city leaders refusing further concessions, rallies and clashes reignited over the Christmas period.
The protests were initially sparked by a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland. They have since morphed into a popular revolt against Beijingís rule, with spiraling fears that the city is losing some of its unique liberties.
Among the demands being made by protesters is an inquiry into the police, an amnesty for the more than 6,000 people arrested and the right to elect Hong Kongís leader.