HK protesters, police clash at rally near border

Hong Kong police clashing with black-clad protesters, who marched in Sheung Shui in the New Territories, not far from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, to voice their unhappiness over parallel importers yesterday. Critics say activities by the importers
Hong Kong police clashing with black-clad protesters, who marched in Sheung Shui in the New Territories, not far from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, to voice their unhappiness over parallel importers yesterday. Critics say activities by the importers have negatively affected the district's retail mix, pushed up rents, and worsened hygiene conditions.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Left: Riot police clearing an overhead bridge in Sheung Shui, after urging protesters and the public to leave the area. Right: A police officer using pepper spray to disperse protesters.
A protester hanging on for his life as bystanders managed to hold on to him before policemen pulled him to safety. He had jumped over the barrier, not realising that he was on an overhead bridge. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Hong Kong police clashing with black-clad protesters, who marched in Sheung Shui in the New Territories, not far from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, to voice their unhappiness over parallel importers yesterday. Critics say activities by the importers
Riot police clearing an overhead bridge in Sheung Shui, after urging protesters and the public to leave the area.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Left: A protester hanging on for his life as bystanders managed to hold on to him before policemen pulled him to safety. He had jumped over the barrier, not realising that he was on an overhead bridge. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
A police officer using pepper spray to disperse protesters. PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Clashes broke out again in Hong Kong, this time in a town near its northern border with Shenzhen, as black-clad protesters marched in Sheung Shui in the New Territories to voice their unhappiness against parallel importers.

Though the march started and ended peacefully, tensions flared when protesters remained, and police in riot gear used pepper spray to disperse them.

Building on the momentum of the anti-extradition movement in recent weeks, demonstration organisers, the North District Parallel Imports Concern Group, estimated 30,000 people turned out in support yesterday.

Police put the figure at 4,000 at the peak of the protest.

Protests appear to be straying into more local issues, with the group's spokesman Ronald Leung criticising the government and the local district council for turning a blind eye to rampant tax evasion by parallel traders.

These importers, mainly of drugs and cosmetics, reap huge profits by selling on the mainland their duty-free stocks bought in Hong Kong.

Critics say activities by parallel importers have negatively affected the Sheung Shui district's retail mix, pushed up rents and worsened hygiene conditions because of the huge influx of tourists and traders from the mainland.

Chanting "district councillors are useless" and "enforce the law", protesters marched through streets where dozens of drug stores and cosmetic shops were located.

They demanded the government scrap the ineffectual policy permitting Shenzhen residents to visit Hong Kong only once a week, blacklist parallel traders, strengthen law enforcement against the occupation of street space and improve hygiene in the area.

Ahead of yesterday's rally, pharmacies frequented by mainland Chinese visitors and parallel traders were cautioned to shutter for safety reasons.

 
 
 
 

They demanded the government scrap the ineffectual policy permitting Shenzhen residents to visit Hong Kong only once a week, blacklist parallel traders, strengthen law enforcement against the occupation of street space and improve hygiene in the area.

A week ago, some 2,000 people took to the streets in Tuen Mun, also in the New Territories, to protest against the noise and environmental nuisance created by mainland Chinese women singing and dancing in a district park.

Yesterday, the police said the Sheung Shui march ended at around 5pm, but clashes broke out when some protesters argued with other people at the scene and attempted to charge at officers when they intervened.

The police said they found a large number of equipment like helmets and goggles "distributed premeditatedly" near MTR Sheung Shui Station along Lung Sum Avenue, Lung Wan Street and San Wan Road.

Some protesters demolished railings and blocked the roads using water barriers and miscellaneous objects, they added.

The police urged protesters and the public to leave the area and not break the law.

At around 7.45pm, the police warned that officers would soon clear the crowds as the situation was chaotic.

Most of the protesters heeded the warning.

A young protester, who reportedly was frightened by a police officer charging towards him with a baton, jumped over a barrier, not realising that he was on an overhead bridge.

Fortunately, bystanders managed to hold on to him before policemen pulled him to safety, according to legislator Andrew Wan, who witnessed the incident.

Fresh calls online have been circulating in the past week for netizens to join planned protests this weekend and next.

Another anti-extradition march has been called for today in Sha Tin, New Territories, while the organiser of some of the biggest rallies in the past month, the Civil Human Rights Front, has said it will hold a march next Sunday.

In the past month, Hong Kong has been rocked by protests that were sparked by Chief Executive Carrie Lam's move to amend existing extradition law.

The extradition Bill would have allowed for suspects to be transferred from Hong Kong to other jurisdictions for prosecution, including China, whose legal system protesters distrust.

Mrs Lam has said that protesters who broke the law will not be granted amnesty, and prosecutorial decisions are made independently.

She maintains the Bill has died a natural death since the government will not push it through Parliament.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 14, 2019, with the headline 'HK protesters, police clash at rally near border'. Print Edition | Subscribe