Hong Kong protesters clashed with police on Saturday in a town near the boundary with mainland China where thousands rallied against the presence of Chinese traders, seizing on another grievance following major unrest over an extradition bill, Trend reports citing Reuters.
The demonstration in the Hong Kong territorial town of Sheung Shui, not far from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, began peacefully but devolved into skirmishes and shouting. Protesters threw umbrellas and hardhats at police, who retaliated by swinging batons and firing pepper spray.
Later, Hong Kong police urged protesters to refrain from violence and leave the area. By around 8:30 p.m. (1230 GMT), most had retreated as police in riot helmets and wielding large shields swept through the town to reclaim the streets.
Sometimes violent street protests have drawn in millions of people, with hundreds even storming the legislature on July 1 to oppose a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to China to face trial in courts under ruling Communist Party control.
Critics see the bill as a threat to Hong Kong’s rule of law. Chief Executive Carrie Lam this week said the bill was “dead” after having suspended it last month, but opponents vow to settle for nothing short of its formal withdrawal.
Protests against the bill had largely taken place in Hong Kong’s main business district, but demonstrators have recently begun to look elsewhere to widen support by taking up narrower, more domestic issues.
In Sheung Shui, protesters rallied to oppose small-time Chinese traders who make short trips into the territory to buy goods that they then haul back to China to sell.
The demonstrators chanted demands in Mandarin, China’s official language, for the Chinese traders to go home. Many street-level shops were shuttered during the march.
The traders have long been a source of anger among those in Hong Kong who say they have fueled inflation, driven up property prices, dodged taxes and diluted Sheung Shui’s identity.