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Hong Kong protesters stage New Year marches, little festive cheer

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Protesters count down to the new year in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong on December 31, 2019. – Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong held hands and formed human chains across the city on Tuesday, as they carried their months-long movement and its demands into 2020 with midnight countdown rallies and a massive march planned for New Year’s Day. (Photo by ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)

Hong Kong protesters formed giant human chains and marched through shopping malls on New Year’s Eve, urging people not to give up the fight for democracy in 2020.

Police were out in force to quell any unrest and authorities canceled the popular midnight fireworks for the first time in a decade, citing security concerns.

A “Symphony of Lights” was planned instead, involving projections on the city’s tallest skyscrapers after a countdown to midnight.

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“This year there are no fireworks, but there will probably be tear gas somewhere,” said 25-year-old IT worker Sam. “For us, it’s not really New Year’s Eve. We have to resist every day.”

As evening fell, thousands of masked protesters, many dressed in black and wearing facemasks, stood in long chains along sidewalks in several areas of the Chinese-ruled city.

On Nathan Road, an important artery on the Kowloon peninsula, protesters in a chain stretching for several kilometers raised lit-up smartphones as passing cars and buses honked in support and tourists in party hats and 2020-shaped glasses took pictures. Many protesters held up cards reading, “Let’s keep fighting together in 2020.”

Dozens of protesters laid flowers near the Prince Edward metro station, scene of some of the most violent clashes with the police this summer.

Demonstrations dubbed “Suck the Eve” in the downtown bar and entertainment district of Lan Kwai Fong and the picturesque Victoria Harbour were planned for later in the night.

The protests began in June in response to a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to Mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party and have evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.

The protest movement is supported by 59% of city residents polled in a survey conducted for Reuters by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute. More than a third of respondents said they had attended an anti-government demonstration.

In a New Year’s Eve video message, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said more than six months of unrest in the Asian financial hub had caused sadness, anxiety, disappointment, and rage.

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