Hong Kong protesters pepper sprayed by cops in shopping mall

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Hong Kong police on Monday called for peaceful demonstrations as multiple protests were being planned amid the New Year festivities.

Sydney chose to press ahead with its fireworks display despite calls by some members of the public for it to be cancelled in solidarity with fire-hit areas in New South Wales, of which the city is the capital.

Shortly before the final day of 2019 drew to a close, police used water cannon to disperse protesters in the same area while, in nearby Prince Edward neighbourhood, officers arrested several protesters staging a candlelight vigil.

On New Year's Day, tens of thousands are expected to join a major pro-democracy march, after it received police approval to proceed, with organisers hoping to sustain the protest movement's momentum into the new year.

The protests broke out in June over proposed legislation that could have extradited suspects in Hong Kong to face trials in mainland China.

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Protesters said authorities are threatening the freedom and autonomy of Hong Kong.

The group, which wants the government to meet the public's five demands, said the march will begin at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay at 2 pm and end at the Chater Road Pedestrian Precinct in Central in the evening.

The huge bushfires have destroyed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres), with new blazes sparked into life nearly daily by extremely hot and windy conditions in bushland left tinder-dry after a three-year drought.

The protests began in June in response to a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party, and have evolved into a broader pro-democracy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

Chinese President Xi Jinping extended his best wishes to Hong Kong residents in a speech carried by state television.

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They face a gruelling Christmas schedule with a trip to Wolves on December 27 followed by the visit of Sheffield United two days later.

Sheung Shui, which is just over the border from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, is popular with so-called parallel traders who buy large volumes of duty-free goods in Hong Kong and then sell them on the mainland.

"Without a harmonious and stable environment, how can people live in peace and enjoy their work?" "So we can begin again, together", said Ms Lam in the 3-minute long message. In particular, Beijing has slammed a USA bill supporting "pro-democracy" activists in Hong Kong as an insult to its sovereignty.

"We should not forget the people in jail who could not count down to the new year with us".

"More realistic people know there's no way for us to win but now is not the time for us to be pessimistic", he said, adding that he would continue to push for full democracy for Hong Kong.

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