Traders in Hong Kong were on high alert on Sunday as shops were closed ahead of marches poised to start in defiance of police bans.
In North Point, shopping centres along King’s Road started to shut at about noon, anxious that violent clashes between black-clad extradition bill protesters and pro-Beijing residents would break out again.
Only two shops remained open in Everwin Arcade, as voices of older residents in the area echoed those angered by the impact of protests on the city.
The unapproved march in North Point was set to start from Victoria Park, where protesters were gathering legally for an anti-government rally, to Java Road Playground.
Traders were also preparing for the worst in Sham Shui Po, where another march did not have police consent but set off regardless on Sunday afternoon.
Protesters have been pressing five main demands after huge demonstrations against the extradition bill were first held at the beginning of June.
The demands include a full withdrawal of the now-abandoned draft legislation, that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China, and genuine universal suffrage.
Posters which read “safeguard Hong Kong” in simplified Chinese were plastered on banks, jewellery shops and retail stalls on King’s Road in North Point.
Following a citywide strike on August 5, protesters were attacked by about a dozen men with bamboo poles in North Point, in scenes reminiscent of the shocking mob violence in Yuen Long on July 21.
“I can’t do anything if the protests affect my business these days, the community is an innocent victim,” said Cheung Man-him, a dry seafood stall owner along the tram tracks on Tong Shui Road.
“I attended the big marches too,” Chueng said as he prepared to close his stall ahead of the protests and called for Hongkongers to consider the impact on others.
He said that people would always have political differences but people should reflect on how they express them.
One shop owner who witnessed the clashes last Monday planned to stay open despite the threat of violence.
“Our stall was still open on the night of the violent clashes ,” said Mrs Lau, a street store vendor on North View Street, who declined to give her full name.
“The youngsters can march on the street in this district, I don’t mind that,” Lau said.
“What the community is afraid of are the triads, it doesn’t matter if they belong to Hong Kong or mainland China gangs, they are bound to bring chaos”.
She also said her stall would stay open despite the unauthorised protests this afternoon.
“The kids were afraid and my employers were trying to see what was happening from the flat,” said a domestic helper who works in North Point and gave her name as Esmeralda.
“I know it’s dangerous to go out today but I’ll try to run my errands quickly today and go back home to North Point early before bad things happen,” she added.
Police in full riot gear also started to monitor the streets of King’s Road, Ming Yuen West Road and North Point Road early this afternoon.
In Sham Shui Po, another district where a protest marked down for Sunday was refused permission by police, most of the shops along Yu Chau Street had lowered their gates. Very few people could be seen on the streets ahead of the rally.
A grocer, who has lived in Sham Shui Po for around 40 years and opened his shop about eight years ago, was the only trader still open in the area ahead of the banned rally.
“Of course we’re worried,” said Au, who refused to give his full name because he was worried that people would go after his shop.
“This is the worst the Hong Kong economy has been since I opened my shop here in 2011. The recent unrest in the neighborhood hasn’t been good for business.
“I will lower the gates and close for the day when people start gathering and anything starts happening in the neighborhood.”
A resident in Sham Shui Po for more than 50 years, known as Tang, said he was not too concerned.
“I’m not too worried because I’ll have returned home. I don’t think they will affect residents if they just gather in the area,” Tang said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong protests: more than 1,000 gather in Causeway Bay for approved anti-government rally, with banned marches also likely to attract demonstrators
- Centre of northern Hong Kong town of Tai Po largely deserted ahead of banned protest as businesses shut up shop
- Hong Kong police refuse permission for four anti-government marches, organisers call it ‘shocking’ attack on Basic Law rights