Hongkongers besiege complaints desk of Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza demanding owner Sun Hung Kai explain why police entered mall during extradition bill protest

Sum Lok-kei

Hundreds of angry Hongkongers besieged the customer service centre of New Town Plaza in Sha Tin for the second consecutive night on Tuesday, demanding an explanation for police entering the premises to clear protesters during an anti-extradition demonstration last Sunday.

People were responding to an online call to gather outside the customer service centre at 8pm on Tuesday if the management failed to give a satisfactory reply by the 6pm deadline they had set.

Unprecedented violence during extradition bill clashes in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin

New Town Plaza is a flagship shopping mall in Sha Tin owned by Hong Kong’s leading developer Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP). The management was pulled into trouble after some protesters accused it of allowing police entry into the mall to arrest demonstrators during the protests last Sunday.

The mall, which has a direct link to Sha Tin MTR station, was the scene of pitched battles after riot police entered the complex to disperse the protesters, some of whom responded by throwing umbrellas and helmets at the officers.

On Monday night, about 50 people, many of whom claimed to be local residents, went to the customer service desk to demand an explanation from the management about why police had been allowed to enter the mall.

About 100 people gathered around the customer service desk again at around 8pm on Tuesday, with six mall staff members distributing complaint forms among them.

The crowd grew thicker as the hours passed. But unlike the protests on Sunday, most of the people on Tuesday did not wear masks or protective gear.

SHKP has said it did not call police and was not aware in advance of the force’s deployment and subsequent dispersal operation on its premises.

Yeow Wai-chung, a Sha Tin resident, said armed police chased her on Sunday though she did not take part in the protest.

“How do I know if it is safe to come to the mall?” Yeow said.

Yeow said she was not satisfied with the mall’s staff merely giving her a complaint form to fill.

“How do I know if they will reply?” she said.

Protesters say they will boycott New Town Plaza and all other shopping malls owned by the group – Sun Hung Kai Properties – if the management fails to provide a satisfactory response defending police deployment. Photo: Stanley Shin

The crowd grew rowdier at around 8.30pm, chanting: “Sun Hung Kai! Shameful!”

Some raised photos of riot police getting into the mall on Sunday.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting urged people to be peaceful, claiming to have seen a young man carrying a bag of metal pipes.

Hongkongers react to the extradition bill clashes in Sha Tin

By 9.10pm, all mall staff had left the centre. One was rescued by a group of paramedics.

One paramedic said his team was responding to a call about a “major disaster”.

By around 10pm, protesters left messages on the walls of the mall with Post-it notes, effectively turning them into Lennon walls – message boards that have sprung up across the city letting protesters vent their feelings against the now-suspended extradition bill.

“You must be responsible for customers’ safety,” one read.

“Sun Hung Kai, without Sha Tin people you will fold,” another read.

Another Sha Tin resident, Ben Lee, 48, said people were angry.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting urges people to remain peaceful during the protest at New Town Plaza in Sha Tin on Tuesday. Photo: May Tse

Should the mall’s manager Sun Hung Kai fail to give an explanation, Lee said people might continue to protest and disrupt business.

“It will affect business. They must explain,” Lee said.

Lee said the entry of police into the mall last Sunday was unacceptable.

A young man, who wished to remain unnamed, said people could consider taking more radical actions, such as besieging Sun Hung Kai’s headquarters in Wan Chai, if the company did not explain its action.

He said he took part in the protest last Sunday, but left before the clashes began between the protesters and police.