Retail stores were shuttered for much of yesterday in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun while city-centre stores closed early to allow their staff to travel home to the New Territories as fears grew of further attacks on civilians by gangsters.
The long-running Hong Kong protests took a bloody turn on Sunday night when more than 45 people were injured after a group of thugs linked to triad groups assaulted MTR passengers in the Yuen Long train station. Some victims were chased onto trains begging their innocence, others into the Yoho shopping centre, all beaten with metal bars.
Until Sunday night, the long-running protests against the extradition bill had involved millions of peaceful protestors and a hard core of some 700 militant protestors occasionally battling with police, breaking into buildings and vandalising public property. This time it was Chinese versus Chinese, the victims including workers returning home after night shifts, a pregnant woman and media filming the rampage – not only people involved in the pro-democracy protests.
Using apps and messaging platforms, Hongkongers were warning each other to stay safe yesterday afternoon with reports circulating that thugs were planning further assaults in Yuen Long between 3pm and 10pm. As a result, many of the suburb’s stores remained closed all day and others shut their doors from mid-afternoon.
In Central and Kowloon, Apple stores closed their doors at 4pm to allow staff to travel home in daylight. Other retailers, including Hollister, also closed early for the same reason – not because of any concern of pro democracy protests in key shopping areas as erroneously reported by some local media; the measures were a safety measure to protect staff.
Yoho Mall in Yuen Long remained open as a thoroughfare yesterday, although most of its tenants shut their doors in deference to staff welfare.
Food-delivery services were also suspended yesterday evening as a safety precaution.
“Riders’ safety is always our top priority,” a spokesperson for Deliveroo told Inside Retail Hong Kong. “With this in mind, we suspended our service in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun area from around 2pm yesterday. That’s the only zone we had closed yesterday. We had put a notice in the app for those consumers within that area about the suspension. We will resume services today.”
A photograph published by the South China Morning Post highlighted the deserted streets in the suburbs, with one resident commenting it was quieter than during a typhoon. Shopping destinations such as Yuen Long Plaza, parts of Castle Peak Road and Fau Tsoi Street were all more-or-less closed.
“We are closing for the day because the situation is getting dangerous,” a restaurant cashier told the SCMP. “We will lose tens of thousands of dollars in business for the day.”
HKRMA chairwoman Annie Tse Yau On-yee, repeated her concerns about the impact ongoing protests could have on the reputation of Hong Kong as a shopping destination.
“Initially, Hong Kong is seen as a very safe place and a shopping paradise. Now, I believe friends from all over the world cast doubt over this,” she said.
“We are concerned about the safety of retail staff. When shops are closed, of course, businesses will be affected. It’s not just about Yuen Long. The same goes in other districts with protests.”
- Footnote: The lead image on this page is from a library and was taken during earlier Hong Kong protests.