Tsim Sha Tsui's pedestrian area for a huge Christmas Eve crowd has been reduced, with police reserving only Kowloon Park Drive for people on foot now that traditional fireworks celebrations have been canceled.
But calls continued for people to join protests even though a Christmas Eve rally was canceled along with no-shopping-based protests across the SAR.
As it is, revelers are sure to be out and about checking festive illuminations and doing last-minute shopping.
And the intention is to keep major roads such as Canton, Salisbury and Nathan roads open for vehicles.
Wong Chi-wai, the deputy district commander for Yau Tsim Mong, said yesterday the police expect tens of thousands of citizens and tourists to pack Tsim Sha Tsui to celebrate Christmas Eve.
But traffic arrangements and police deployments will be different this year, Wong said, because intelligence pointers are that "it would be better not to block the roads." There will not be a heavy police presence along the harbor promenade, he added, but officers are ready to react quickly with road-blocking plans and manpower deployments in the event of any emergency.
It is the first time in 22 years that roads will be open to vehicular traffic tonight.
Despite these strategies and the rally cancellation by its organizers, Wong noted, some people aimed to go ahead with a march in Tsim Sha Tsui.
"It's my duty to warn people that violence may happen," he said. "If such a scenario occurs the police will enforce the law accordingly."
Asked how officers could effectively distinguish protesters from crowd of innocent citizens and revelers, Wong responded that police are trained and experienced in identifying threats of bad behavior or worse after handling social unrest for more than six months.
"Citizens taking children to enjoy the festivities are different from those who plan to stir up trouble," he said. "Please have faith in us."
And he warned: "A breakout of trouble is not decided by police."
On that, he pointed to online calls being made with the aim of inciting people to block roads and burn Christmas trees in shopping malls.
Public transport will be rerouted and people should pay attention to instructions broadcast by the police and avoid crowded areas if trouble or an emergency situation breaks out, Wong added.
The march was supposed to begin at 8pm tonight from the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower and head along Salisbury Road to Nathan Road, with a finish planned before 1am tomorrow.
The police issued a letter of no objection on condition the route was changed, with a starting point at Salisbury Garden at 6pm and heading to Hong Kong Coliseum in Hung Hom for a 10pm finish.
But an organizer, signing off as Swing, wrote on online forum LIHKG that the march was canceled due to safety concerns, citing the police "using unnecessary force in a rally held in Edinburgh Place on Sunday."
The response from some people was that they would proceed with the march according to its original route and timing.
Some would-be activists also planned protests in 10 shopping malls.
The targeted 10 are New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, Yoho Mall in Yuen Long, Popcorn in Tseung Kwan O, Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui, Telford Plaza in Kowloon Bay, APM in Kwun Tong, Langham Place in Mong Kok, Times Square in Causeway Bay, IFC Mall in Central and Cityplaza in Tai Koo Shing.
On Hong Kong Island, the police will implement crowd-control measures in Lan Kwai Fong, road closures and traffic diversions in Central and around Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.
Tomorrow, masquerade marches are planned on streets in Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Mong Kok, Sha Tin and Central.