Manhunt after masked robbers hit watch shop in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Ng Kang-chung

A manhunt was under way on Sunday night for three masked robbers who looted a watch shop in Causeway Bay, threatening staff with what turned out to be a replica gun.

Police were called shortly after 7pm to 28 Watches, a ground-floor shop in the Causeway Bay Plaza 1 mall, at the junction of Hennessy Road and Percival Street.

The black-clad robbers, who wore masks, spoke Cantonese and were thought to be in their 20s, had been seen fleeing eastwards towards Victoria Park. By midnight, the search was still going on and no arrests had been made.

The force said the men made off with 12 watches, with a total value of about HK$600,000 (US$77,000).

Police outside the Causeway Bay Plaza 1 mall after Sunday’s robbery. Photo: Sun Yeung

“The watch shop staff said the three robbers were men. They rushed in and smashed the shop window and grasped some watches and escaped,” a police spokesman said. “There were reports that a robber was seen holding a pistol-like object.”

Officers who had cordoned off the area found a knife, two hammers, the fake gun and three of the watches in a back alley nearby.

The force later said no one was injured in the attack.

Noting the robbery in a post on its Facebook page, staff at the shop said it would be closed for several days.

Police open fire during arrest of suspected robbery gang in Hong Kong

There has been a sharp increase in the number of robberies reported during the last six months, as anti-government protests and subsequent violent clashes have stretched police resources. Since August, local police have stopped patrolling city streets on foot because of the presence of radical protesters and the perceived risk of being attacked. Officers now patrol the streets in police vans.

Earlier this month, armed robbers raided a Mong Kok watch shop, making off with a haul of the timepieces. One employee was wounded in the arm and ear while trying to stop them.

Overall, the number of crimes reported between January and October dropped 0.7 per cent to 45,334, with violent crimes decreasing by 4.4 per cent to 7,219 cases, while crimes such as robbery, arson and vandalism were on the rise.

There was about one robbery per day in October, according to police, up from one report every two to three days in 2018.

The crime detection rate for the first 10 months of this year also fell to 37 per cent, down from 43.5 per cent for the same period in 2018.

The months of social unrest began in June, initially in response to the now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China and other jurisdictions with which Hong Kong lacks a handover agreement.

Though the bill was dropped, the protests continued and evolved into a wider and more violent anti-government movement.

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