Dozens of mainly foreign residents of Beijing dressed up as Santa Claus as part of a worldwide weekend costume parade got a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings -- ejection from Tiananmen Square.
The group was taking part in Saturday's SantaCon -- a worldwide event that sees people don Santa's familiar red suit and white-brimmed hat and make merry in cities around the world including the Chinese capital, two revellers said.
About four hours into the day-long event, which in Beijing takes the form of a pub crawl, dozens of revellers entered Tiananmen Square -- the scene of mass pro-democracy protests in 1989 that ended in a bloody army crackdown.
As they gathered for a photo, police intervened, the participants said.
"You are causing a social disturbance -- leave the square now," one partygoer, who asked not to be identified, quoted a police officer as saying to the group.
"If you want to visit Tiananmen, come in the appropriate way."
Another participant told AFP: "Everyone just dispersed really quickly in an effort not to get into trouble. The cops did follow us out, but the party moved on and there were no problems."
The Global Times quoted one drunken Santa as saying: "China stole my Christmas," but the first participant interviewed by AFP said he thought the incident had given the event some bite.
"I think people sort of liked getting kicked out of Tiananmen Square. I think it added a bit of edginess to what otherwise would just have been a pub crawl," he said, adding there had been no problems in the past two years.