HK nativism activists harass mainland shoppers

HK nativism activists harass mainland shoppers
A police officer asks protesters to keep in order at New Town Plaza, Sha Tin, on Feb 15, 2015

An angry mob of extreme "nativists" harassed mainland and local shoppers Sunday at one of Hong Kong's most crowded shopping malls on the pretext that the large number of parallel traders and their couriers were causing unacceptable disruptions to daily life.

At least five activitists were arrested by the police in the incident that lasted for about three hours at the New Town Plaza in Sha Tin for common assault, attacking police officers and disorderly conduct in public place.

One police officer and two members of public were injured, the police said.

The New Town Plaza, adjacent to the busy Sha Tin MTR Station, is considered one of Hong Kong's most popular malls and has attracted a steady flow of mainland shoppers who travel from Shenzhen on the East Rail Line.

Like the protest in Trend Plaza in Tuen Mun last Sunday, the rally in Sha Tin was initiated by nativist activists.

Members of the activist group at New Town donned the signature blue hoodies but refrained from hoisting banners with the message "Hong Kong Indigenous".

Turnout was below a hundred at the beginning, but the entourage of press and police officers blocked many narrow corridors at the already busy mall.

Shoppers with luggage were identified as mainland visitors, and were singled out for harassment by the protesters.

Shops quickly shuttered up to avoid possible damage, trapping many shoppers inside.

Some shopkeepers quarrelled with the protesters and there were numerous incidents of scuffles in the mall.

Police officers were forced to use pepper spray to disperse the crowd and restored order to the place at around 7 pm.

Police Assistant District Commander Louisa Chui Po-chu condemned the unruly protesters for failing to heed the police appeal for calm.

She said police officers had to use minimum force especially when protesters tried to crash the gates of some shops.

More arrests are likely, she added.

The fresh wave of hostility against mainland day-trippers was triggered by the shopping spree ahead of the festive season.

The pattern of mob action largely resembles the "shopping" mischief in Mong Kok after the nearby occupation sites were cleared.

The standoff in Tuen Mun began on February 8 as a march to draw attention to what protesters considered nuisance caused by mainland shoppers and parallel trade couriers in residential areas.

Just hours ahead of the Sha Tin rally, a core member of the "Hong Kong Indigenous" was arrested for participating in the Tuen Mun rally.

He was the 19th person to be arrested by police for disorderly conduct at the Tuen Mun mall.

Legislator Michael Tien Puk-sun, whose primary electoral base covers the Tuen Mun district, said he intends to propose a "cap" on the multiple-entry permits currently issued to residents in Shenzhen when he attends the National People's Congress assembly next month.

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