HONG KONG • Protesters hurled petrol bombs at a Hong Kong police station yesterday and at least 60 people were arrested following a march against so-called parallel trading near the Chinese border.
Organisers estimated 10,000 people took part in the march, while police estimated a crowd of 2,500 at its peak in Sheung Shui district. Violence erupted after police ordered protesters to disperse.
Earlier, several petrol bombs were thrown at the Sheung Shui police station, about 1.5km from where the rally took place.
Yesterday's protest came during a period of heightened anti-mainland sentiment in Hong Kong, where a pro-democracy movement demanding greater freedoms from Beijing has raged for nearly seven months.
The marchers were protesting against parallel trading, which sees thousands of mainlanders cross the border every day to bulk-buy goods such as infant formula milk powder to sell at a profit in China.
There is significant resentment against the practice, which frequently leaves goods in short supply in border towns, and has driven up the price of commodities as well as shop rents. "The mainland Chinese come here, block the streets with their bags... rents have gone up and it has made things more expensive for Hong Kongers," said Jasmin, a 19-year old student dressed all in black, who only gave her first name. "I want the government to know that too many of them are coming over here."
The marchers, including families with children, shouted slogans such as "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times!" and "Patriots use China-made products, don't parallel trade!"
Many shops in the area were closed.
Earlier in the day, in a separate incident, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters hurling petrol bombs over the fence of the Sheung Shui police station, damaging one police vehicle.
The anti-government protests have been blamed for helping plunge Hong Kong's economy into recession for the first time in a decade. The protests were triggered by a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China, but have morphed into a broader revolt for democratic freedoms. They often descend into violent clashes, with protesters using petrol bombs and other makeshift weapons, and the police deploying tear gas and rubber bullets.
The violence yesterday was not at the level seen during many previous protests. China and the Hong Kong administration have refused to bow to protester demands, which include direct elections, an inquiry into alleged police misconduct and amnesty for the nearly 7,000 people arrested so far.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS