Lunar New Year celebrations in Hong Kong descended into chaos in the early hours of Tuesday morning, as street food vendors clashed violently with police, culminating in warning shots being fired by officers. The clashes are being dubbed the "Fishball Revolution," in reference to city authorities' efforts to clamp down on street food vendors — fishballs being a street-food staple in Hong Kong.
The festivities took a turn for the worst around 10pm, when police donned riot gear in a bid to clear hawkers selling their wares along a main thoroughfare. The crowd lobbed glass bottles and ceramic pots at law enforcement, who responded with pepper spray. Dramatic video footage shot by bystanders shows skirmishes between law enforcement and hawkers on the streets of Mong Kok, a busy residential and commercial part of Hong Kong.
A man identified as Kam told the South China Morning Post that he was trapped between the line of riot police and the crowd, and had been chatting with the police when they pepper sprayed him with no warning.
"They suddenly sprayed my face even though I told them I just wanted to go," he said.
Police spokesperson Stephen Yu Wai-kit told reporters that police only intervened because Food and Environmental Health officers had been unsuccessful in their efforts to shut down the hawkers in Mong Kok.
The unrest provided a window of opportunity for another group trying to make their message heard. Hours after the unrest began, Hong Kong Indigenous, a radical localist political group, announced on Facebook that Edward Leung Tin-kei, their candidate for the upcoming Legislative Council by-elections, would be marching in the Mong Kok night market, and called on supporters to join.
The post urged people who planned to join the march to bring eye masks, face masks, and protective gear. Tin-kei was arrested at around 2am.
Other political groups in the city like Hong Kong Indigenous are vehemently opposed to Chinese interference in Hong Kong politics.
The scene in the streets of Mong Kok on Monday night and early Tuesday morning was reminiscent of the pro-democracy Umbrella Revolution of 2014, when students occupied busy thoroughfares for weeks to protest reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system that would give China the power to vet all candidates vying to be the city's chief executive. The heavy-handed manner with which Hong Kong police responded to protesters drew international criticism.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons