Early morning in Mong Kok, Feb. 9. Bobby Yip / REUTERS

Violence between protesters and police appears to be borne out of a deep-seated mistrust.

Violent clashes broke out between police and protesters in Hong Kong late Monday night, resulting in 44 police injuries and 24 arrests. Two warning shots were fired by officers after midnight, in a city where police rarely draw their guns.

The fighting began after Hong Kong police tried to issue tickets to unlicensed street food sellers in Mong Kok, a working class neighborhood. But the scale and the ferociousness of the fighting, which led to the temporary shutdown of a major subway station, point to motivations that go far beyond the plight of a few hawkers.

Rioters throw bricks at police in Mong Kok during the Lunar New Year riots. The car is an abandoned taxi cab. (Vincent Yu / AP Images)

Instead, the violence appears to be borne out of a deep-seated mistrust about the direction Hong Kong is headed, under the leadership of a government that too often looks like it listens to Beijing more than its own people.

Two warning shots were fired by police at 2 a.m.

Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” shut down the center of town for months in 2014, ending without the government gaining any ground on the voting rules that sparked the protests in the first place. But anger at the Beijing-backed government has simmered below the surface. Mong Kok was the site of a parallel protest in 2014 that expanded beyond students to retirees and blue-collar workers concerned about the Communist Party’s reach into Hong Kong.

Since then, Beijing’s grip on the city has only tightened. Once thought impossible, some Hong Kong residents were recently abducted from Hong Kong soil by mainland Chinese authorities, to be brought in for questioning across the border. Their “crime” was operating a bookstore that dealt in gossipy titles full of stories about China’s top leaders.

A rioter is taken away by police on a street in Mong Kok. (Kin Cheung / AP Images)

A number of those fighting with police Monday night were identified as being part of Hong Kong’s “Localist” movement. The term refers to a range of protest groups that are calling for various degrees of independence or autonomy from Beijing control. The spokesperson of one Localist group, Hong Kong Indigenous, was arrested, according to a Facebook post by Real Hong Kong News:

The New Territories East by-election candidate Edward Leung Tin-kei (Hong Kong Indigenous) has been arrested and sent to…

Posted by Real Hong Kong News on Monday, February 8, 2016

Protesters pointed to the long tradition of allowing unlicensed vendors to sell snacks on the first three days of Chinese New Year, which began on Monday. The protest over an attempt to clear street vendors escalated after riot police arrived on the scene with batons, shields, and pepper spray, say protesters. Meanwhile police told the South China Morning Post that “radical elements” were armed with shields and “self-made weapons.”

This story originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

More from Quartz:

Google Wants to Deliver Packages From Self-Driving Trucks​

When Healthcare Records Sync Up, Hospitals Work Better

The Single Most Important Thing an Economics Course Can Teach You

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A young refugee from Kosovo stands in front of a map of Hungary with her teacher.

    Who Maps the World?

    Too often, men. And money. But a team of OpenStreetMap users is working to draw new cartographic lines, making maps that more accurately—and equitably—reflect our space.

  2. Design

    The Seductive Power of a Suburban Utopia

    Serenbe, an intentional community outside Atlanta, promises urban pleasures without the messiness of city life.

  3. A LimeBike and LimeBike-S are pictured.

    I Have Seen the Future of Urbanism and It's a Scooter

    While you’re still trying to figure out dockless bikes, there’s a new two-wheeler to share around town. It could be a bigger deal than you think.

  4. Life

    Amazon Go Might Kill More Than Just Supermarkets

    Supermarkets are community anchors. Amazon’s “just walk out” version embodies a disconcerting social transformation.

  5. Transportation

    An 'Instant Bridge' Collapses Near Miami, and Many Questions Remain

    Florida International University’s new pedestrian bridge was state-of-the-art. On Thursday, the new span failed, killing six.