Hong Kong's Lunar New Year celebration descended into chaotic scenes Monday night as protesters and police, who fired warning shots into the air, clashed over a street market selling fish balls and other local holiday delicacies, with dozens injured and arrested. The violence is the worst in Hong Kong since pro-democracy protests rocked the city in 2014, leaving a growing trust gap between the public and authorities. Activists held running battles with police into the early morning hours of Tuesday. Protesters pelted officers with paving stones, glass bottles, and other pieces of debris. Some threw garbage cans, plastic safety barriers, and wood from shipping pallets. They also set fires on the street.
The unrest, which has been dubbed the "fish ball revolution," started when authorities tried to prevent unlicensed street food sellers from operating on Monday night. The hawkers have become a local tradition during the Lunar New Year holiday, but this year authorities tried to remove them. The hawkers were backed by activists who objected to the crackdown over concerns that Hong Kong's local culture is disappearing as Beijing tightens its hold on the semiautonomous city. The Hong Kong Free Press reports that police made 54 arrests during the unrest and vowed to step up security for Tuesday night's New Year fireworks display. (Read more Hong Kong stories.)