Pepper spray breaks up protest in Tuen Mun against influx of mainland shoppers

Pepper spray breaks up protest in Tuen Mun against influx of mainland shoppers

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Police officers intervened to calm rally participants.
Police officers intervened to calm rally participants.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

Thirteen people were arrested yesterday (Sunday) during a protest against mainland shoppers flooding a Tuen Mun shopping mall. 

Hong Kong police used pepper spray to break up a conflict that started as a shoving match  between protesters and a mainland couple at Tuen Mun Town Plaza. They raised a red warning flag and drew batons as they told people to calm down. 

About 800 Hongkongers responded to calls from political groups Civic Passion and Hong Kong Indigenous to join the protest, which began peacefully at the Tuen Mun MTR station. The protesters, many of them wearing face masks, marched to the B3X  bus stop, shouting "go back to the mainland" and "give us back Tuen Mun" at passengers.

Citybus' HK$11 B3X route runs from Tuen Mun town centre to the Shenzhen Bay border crossing. It is known to be heavily used by parallel-goods traders and mainland visitors.

From the bus stop, protesters marched to Yan Ching Street, an area full of pharmacies and gold shops, where they demonstrated against the impact of parallel trading. Some shops closed.

The protesters then moved to nearby malls to mount Mong Kok-style gau wu, or shopping, protests.

Residents’ anger is growing at the number of mainlanders who clog public transport and disrupt their daily lives. Ahead of Lunar New Year on February 19, dozens of people carrying bulging bags and suitcases can be seen at the stop,  where buses arrive about every 10 minutes.

“Every time I walk home, I can’t get through because I’m blocked by a horde of [mainlanders] with luggage on the pavement,” said one Tuen Mun resident named Chris.

Hong Kong government has expanded tourist quotas in recent years to boost the city’s economy. Reports said  up to 12,000 mainland traders travelled to Tuen Mun within three hours after shopping malls there offered free bus rides.  

Civic Passion’s Cheng Chung-tai called the buses “private coaches for parallel traders”.

“Tuen Mun residents counting on the authorities ... will no longer work. You must take charge of your own district,” he said on Sunday.

Mainlanders gave mixed responses to the protesters. Some took photos, while a few raised their middle finger at the protesters as their buses left.

By nightfall, shops at nearby Trend Plaza were forced to shut as protesters took over nearly half of the mall. Police used batons and pepper spray as they clashed with protesters. Injuries were sustained on both sides - including a police officer, who briefly fell unconscious. Thirteen locals - nine men and four women, aged 16 to 74 - were arrested.

The police issued a statement on Sunday night urging the public to be rational in expressing their views.

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