China Is Accusing Hong Kong Protesters of 'Kidnapping' the Economy

The "yellow economic circle" is the pro-democracy movement's answer to the city's biggest recession in decades.

HONG KONG — Early May every year usually brings hordes from Mainland China to Hong Kong’s luxury malls for the massive “Golden Week” shopping event. But this year the malls were instead filled with Hong Kongers reviving the pro-democracy movement that got mostly sidelined by the COVID-19 outbreak.

In one mall last week, a large group of protesters chanted “Fuck the police!” and defied social distancing regulations in a symbolic statement: Many here believe the government has been using stay-at-home orders as cover to consolidate power, after police arrested 15 pro-democracy activists, and the region’s chief executive Carrie Lam put pro-Beijing leaders into key Cabinet positions.


Beyond the mall protests, labor leaders have been signing people up for the new trade unions that emerged out of last year’s movement, and people are deliberately patronizing the “yellow economic circle” of stores that openly support democratic change.

While that kind of spending may seem like a small act of resistance, China has taken notice: Its liaison office in Hong Kong said that protesters were “kidnapping the economy” by shopping only in the yellow economic circle.

As Hong Kong prepares for the one-year anniversary of the huge march for democracy, veteran protesters like Vincent Sze-Tou believe that any renewed push for democratic reform will require economic solidarity.

“What we do within yellow economy has fucking nothing to do with China.” Sze-Tou said. “We don’t care about the gold from China anymore. The golden color, or yellow, in our minds, stands for democracy.”

This segment aired on VICE News Tonight on May 7.

Video produced by: Crystal Wong, Angad Singh, Leah Varjacques.

Filmed by: Stanley Leung

Editing by: Jeb Banegas

Cover: Pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan addresses members of the public as riot police wearing protective masks stand guard behind a cordon line in front of the Langham Place shopping mall in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, May 1, 2020. (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)