Pharmacies frequented by mainland Chinese visitors and parallel traders in a border district of Hong Kong have been warned to shut down if safety is threatened during a protest march on Saturday.
North District Parallel Imports Concern Group will organise a protest march to “recover Sheung Shui”, where residents have for years complained of nuisance caused by traders buying goods to take back to mainland China.
The group expects a turnout in thousands rather than the usual few hundreds, given the momentum against the government’s handling of the controversial extradition bill, which has triggered mass protests and clashes between demonstrators and police in the past month.
The now-suspended bill would have allowed fugitive transfer to places the city does not have an extradition deal with, including mainland China.
About 2,000 people took to the streets in Tuen Mun last Saturday to protest against the decade-long nuisance caused by mainland Chinese women who sing and dance in a park in the district.
Large crowd gathers to protest against singers from mainland China shattering peace of Tuen Mun Park
Officials announced three days later that the performances would stop from September.
This Saturday, protesters will march through eight streets in Shek Wu Hui, Sheung Shui, where at least 70 pharmacies and cosmetic shops serving mostly mainland tourists and parallel traders are located.
The group accused the government and the district council, which is dominated by the pro-establishment camp, of turning a blind eye to rampant tax evasion by the traders, who sell their duty-free stocks bought in Hong Kong in mainland China for profit.
It also said the activities had an effect on the community’s commercial landscape, rental levels and public hygiene conditions.
The protesters’ demands include: scrapping a week-long single-entry visa for Shenzhen residents; blacklisting parallel traders; and strengthening law enforcement against the occupation of street space.
In a notice to shops on the marching route, the Shek Wu Hui Merchants Association warned of “potential chaos such as overcrowding and traffic congestion due to the area’s narrow streets”.
The association called on shops to watch out for their personal and property safety during the march and added: “You may decide whether to close your shop during the event.”
Most shopkeepers on Thursday said they were not worried and would wait and see before deciding what to do, though one, surnamed Au, said he was considering closing for the day.
“Parallel trading has actually brought prosperity to our district, which you can tell from the rise in rents,” Au said. “If you want to protest, do it in a basketball court, where you won’t affect us.”
A jewellery shop employee, surnamed Wong, said he was more concerned about what would happen after the march.
“As we saw in Mong Kok last week, people did not leave after the march,” Wong said, referring to clashes on Sunday night between police and protesters following a march in Tsim Sha Tsui.