A district in northern Hong Kong was rendered a ghost town on Monday, a day after a rod-wielding gang launched an indiscriminate attack on train passengers.
Most shops in Yuen Long were closed by the afternoon, with residents staying away for fear of fresh violence.
Police had no evidence of imminent further attacks on Monday, according to district commander Lee Wai-man.
But rumours of a repeat prompted shops to close in the upmarket Yoho mall next to Yuen Long MTR station, where the violence took place, and key shopping areas such as Yuen Long Plaza, the Yuen Long section of Castle Peak Road and Fau Tsoi Street.
On Sunday night scores of men with sticks and metal rods rampaged through the station, attacking black-clad protesters and passengers, leaving at least 45 injured. The protesters had been on their way home after taking part in an extradition bill march on Hong Kong Island.
On Monday the densely populated town, popular with mainland Chinese shoppers, was deserted. Shops closed at midday, or did not open at all.
“We closed the doors at 3pm and let my staff go home early, for safety’s sake,” said Tse Ching-yuen, 88, of Tai Tung Bakery on Fau Tsoi Street.
“I have never seen anything like [Sunday’s violence], and my staff are very frightened,” added Tse, whose shop, almost 80 years old, employs eight workers.
By 3pm at Yoho, almost all of about 100 shops were closed, with the lights off.
“I need to ensure the safety of my four staff,” said the manager of a hotpot restaurant at the mall, who added that, “beyond the safety issue, virtually no one is coming to shop”.
At Yuen Long Plaza, 1.8km from Yoho, almost all of the 100 shops shut after lunchtime.
“We are closing for the day because the situation is getting dangerous,” a cashier at a restaurant said. “We will lose tens of thousands of dollars in business for the day.”
A man surnamed Wong, who owned a bakery on Castle Peak Road, let his five staff go home early.
“All our workers are worried about their safety, with rumours flying around, so we let them leave early, at about 3pm to 4pm,” he said.
“It’s even worse than typhoon season. What we saw yesterday was a lack of law and order. It is the police’s job to maintain it.”
At the nearby Long Ping station, all shops lowered the shutters before social workers’ groups marched from the station to the district’s police station, to complain about what they said was the police turning a blind eye to the attackers – something the force has denied.
Shops at a wet market in Tuen Mun closed one to two hours earlier than normal, shop owners citing either safety concerns or a lack of custom.
We are concerned about the safety of retail staff. When shops are closed, of course, businesses will be affected
Annie Tse, Hong Kong Retail Management Association
“It’s supposed to be rush hour, with lots of customers heading home from work,” lamented one butcher. On Tuen Mun Heung Sze Wui Road, one of the busiest streets, most shops had closed early.
Some government-run sports and cultural centres were closed early at 7pm on Monday, also due to safety concerns. They included Yuen Long Stadium and the Yuen Long Theatre.
In Tsuen Wan, shops at two busy shopping centres – Luk Yeung Galleria and Tsuen Fung Centre Shopping Arcade – also closed for half a day, but for different reasons.
Protesters there trashed the office of legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, inside Tsuen Fung Centre, reducing the empty office to a mess of egg shells and glass shards.
The vandals were incensed at the rural leader for shaking hands with white-clad men — said to include the attackers – and thanking them on Sunday night.
Annie Tse Yau On-yee, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, warned the protests would hurt sales and even the city’s reputation as a safe destination.
Tse said the industry body expected retail sales to dip this year, as political unrest lingers.
“We are concerned about the safety of retail staff. When shops are closed, of course, businesses will be affected. This is a very direct [impact],” she said. “It’s not just about Yuen Long. The same goes in other districts with protests.”
“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.
Additional reporting by Sum Lok-kei and Kanis Leung
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong press associations ‘strongly condemn’ attacks on journalists at Yuen Long MTR station
- Hong Kong police chief defends officers arriving 35 minutes after first reports of Yuen Long mob violence against protesters and MTR passengers
- Hong Kong police deny accusation they colluded with thugs who attacked passengers at train station, as one lawmaker calls incident ‘terrorism’
This article Day after brutal attack on Hong Kong extradition bill protesters, Yuen Long is a ghost town first appeared on South China Morning Post