Despite recent violent crackdowns and government warnings against protests in Hong Kong, a new wave of demonstrators took to the streets Sunday — this time to decry corrupt economic practices.
Police used tear gas and batons on crowds protesting against parallel trading — buying untaxed goods in Hong Kong to resell in mainland China — a practice locals say is exploiting their community and driving up prices.
Hundreds of people marched through the border town of Tuen Mun, entering shopping malls and yelling, "give us back Tuen Mun," the South China Morning Post reported.
Thousands of merchants illegally smuggle baby formula and other goods from Hong Kong to mainland China in a trend that has grown "out of control," a local judge told the South China Morning Post this week. The Hong Kong government has tried limit the flow of certain items across the border. Several smugglers were sentenced to two weeks in jail this week after they were caught transporting 12 times the 1.8-kilogram limit of baby formula.
Traders take Citybus, a cheap express bus service, to and from Tuen Mun to buy a wide array of goods, from iPads to milk powder, Channel News Asia reported. Citybus employees have ignored the problem, activists claim.
"Tuen Mun residents, counting on the authorities… will no longer work. You must take charge of your own district," protest leader Cheng Chung-tai told the crowd. He called the buses "private coaches for parallel traders."
Many shops were shuttered during the march. At one point, a group of protesters got in a shoving match with a couple shopping in Tuen Mun Plaza. Police broke up the scuffle with tear gas.
The demonstrators also took over nearly half of another mall, Trend Plaza, and cops there made multiple arrests.
"I think it was chaotic, but I think it was successful as we really got the message out to parallel traders," activist Andy Yung Wai-yib, a leader of last year's Occupy Hong Kong movement, told the South China Morning Post.
The heated day of action, supported by Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement, came despite government warnings earlier this week that such protests are "illegal." Late last year, police dismantled the camps of thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The government also seized 8,000 rolls of toilet paper this week bearing the face of Hong Kong's leader, who activists claim is a puppet for the Chinese government.
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