Hundreds arrested in Hong Kong at New Year's protests: police

HONG KONG: About 400 people were arrested in the New Year protests in Hong Kong After what began as a peaceful march for the democracy of tens of thousands, it became chaotic scenes with the police firing tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The arrests bring the total to approximately 7,000 since the protests in the city intensified in June over a now withdrawn bill that would have allowed extradition, and will highlight the apparent absence of any progress to end the riots.

Wednesday's tension increased after some arrests were made in the Wan Chai bar district, near a branch of the global banking group HSBC, which has been targeted by protesters' anger in recent weeks.

When clashes broke out, a large number of protesters dressed in black rushed to the scene, while other protesters formed human chains to pass them various supplies, including bricks, forcing police to bring their own reinforcements.

The police then asked the organizers to suspend the march early and the crowds eventually dispersed like a water cannon truck and dozens of police with riot gear patrolled the streets until late at night.

In an information session on Wednesday night, senior superintendent Ng Lok-Chun told reporters that the arrests were committed for crimes that included illegal gathering and possession of offensive weapons.

Over the months, the protests have become a broad movement that drives full democracy in the city ruled by China and an independent investigation into allegations of police brutality. The police say they act in moderation.

The arrests were also made on New Year's Eve, when protesters briefly occupied an important road on the peninsula while the crowds of thousands of people counted until midnight throughout the year.

Some protesters allege that HSBC was complicit in the action of the authorities against activists trying to raise money to support their campaign. The bank denies any participation.