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Dramatic Images Show Protests Turned Ugly During Lunar New Year Celebrations In Hong Kong

Dozens of people were injured and 54 arrested as police and activists clashed.

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Dozens were injured and many arrested as Hong Kong's Lunar New Year celebrations turned into chaos when police and protesters clashed in a street market.

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The unrest began when authorities tried to stop unlicensed street-food sellers from operating in the Mong Kok area. The street sellers have become a tradition during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images

The street sellers were backed by activists who objected to the crackdown over concerns Hong Kong's local culture is disappearing as Beijing tightens its hold on the semiautonomous city.

Protesters were seen pelting police with stones, bottles, and other debris. Fires were also lit in the streets.

Dale De La Rey / AFP / Getty Images

Officers responded with pepper spray, batons, and water cannons.

More than 80 police officers and four journalists were hurt during the riots, Hong Kong's leader, Leung Chun-ying, told the press.

Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images

"I believe the public can see for themselves from TV news reports the seriousness of the situation," Leung said. "The [Hong Kong] government strongly condemns such violent acts. The police will apprehend the mobs and bring them to justice."

Police Commissioner Lo Wai-Chung told reporters 54 people had been arrested on suspicion of unlawful assembly, assaulting police and possession of dangerous weapons.

Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images

Lo said authorities were considering charging protesters with "taking part in a riot." Two warning shots were fired during the incident, Acting District Commander Yau Siu-kei said.

Student Julia Fung told the South China Morning Post she was more scared of the police than the rioters.

“You can feel rage in the police officers’ eyes towards the protesters,” she said. “Not only were batons and pepper spray used ... police were firing gun shots."

Yau said officers had no choice but to fire warning shots during the riot.

Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images

“Because many rioters were attacking police with hard objects and seriously threatened their lives," he said, "there was no choice but to protect colleagues."

Alicia Melville-Smith is a homepage editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Alicia Melville-Smith at alicia.melville-smith@buzzfeed.com.

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