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BestMart 360 targeted again as stores trashed across Kowloon

Discount snacks-and-food retailer BestMart 360 was again targeted by protestors in the streets of Kowloon yesterday with a store trashed, but not looted. 

While overseas media reported that “hundreds” of retail stores and banks in Hong Kong were destroyed by vandals during the protests on Sunday and some set on fire, the reality is that a much more modest number were affected. 

Earlier this month, BestMart said about 60 of its 100 stores across Hong Kong had been affected by varying degrees of vandalism since protests began about 20 weeks ago. Protesters say they are targeting the chain because it has ties to so-called Fujian gangs who have been attacking protestors in isolated instances in recent months. The company denies any such ties. 

In a stock-exchange filing last week, chairman Lin Tsz Fung warned that the company may have issues claiming insurance on the damage caused by the vandals. 

“The group is discussing and handling with its insurance company the relevant compensation packages. In the event that its insurance company refuses to compensate or inadequately compensates its claims, the group may be required to bear the corresponding economic losses,” he said.

Besides the cost of repairs, the company says the closure of stores to allow repairs will have an impact on sales, however it is too early to determine the extent of that.

“Since different degrees of renovation works will be carried out on the damaged retail stores, the normal business operation of such retail stores will be subject to different extent of effects. The management shall strive to resume normal business operation of such affected retail stores as soon as practicable.

“Based on the preliminary assessment of the company’s management [accounts], the social movement in the past few months in Hong Kong had a certain extent of adverse impact on the normal business operations of the group, which may affect the financial performance of the group,” he said.

While stores have been trashed and cash registers and electronic equipment have been destroyed in some stores, stock has not been stolen or eaten. Yesterday, protestors left notices taped to store entrances explaining why the chain was targeted, which ended with the message “Never steal or rob”. 

Yesterday, other chains including Japanese eatery Yoshinoya and Bank of China branches, were also destroyed. Live video footage streamed by AppleDaily showed small groups of protestors breaking through shutters and then overturning shelves and – in the case of banks – smashing security windows above counters, and ATMs. The actions took as little as a minute before the groups moved on. 

One of the worst-affected stores was traditional Chinese medicine shop Tong Ren Tang in Mong Kok. At first pass it was smashed, but protestors later returned and lit a fire inside. 

And the Xiaomi flagship store on Nathan Road was also targeted, its shutters broken and a fire lit at the entrance. It was not clear how badly damaged the store was or whether there was damage caused to adjacent stores due to fire-fighting procedures.

According to a live blog by the South China Morning Post, an elderly man in Yau Ma Tei who was accused of stealing at least three mobile phones from a trashed Xiaomi store was tied up by protesters who insisted they did not condone looting.

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