Residents of Yuen Long, Hong Kong took to the streets on Sunday to protest against “parallel traders,” Chinese mainland smugglers who buy products in Hong Kong to sell on the mainland for a mark-up. Up to 38 individuals were arrested during the protests, while video shows protestors bloodied and recovering from pepper spray.
Reuters reports that a crowd of about 400 protesters formed in Yuen Long, chanting “cancel the multiple-entry permit” and “topple the Chinese Communist Party,” the former a reference to a law that permits Chinese mainlanders to enter and exit Hong Kong multiple times a day. Protesters contend this law facilitates black market trading that benefits mainland Chinese while forcing up the prices of goods in Hong Kong’s market.
Law enforcement authorities used pepper spray and batons to subdue the protesters as shopkeepers closed their stores early to protect them. The BBC notes that violence followed the initial protest, as anti-protestor groups in Hong Kong assembled to hurl insults at the protesters. Those arrested were between the ages of 13 and 74, and held mostly for disorder charges.
Video from Taiwan’s South China Morning Post shows a woman bleeding from her face and protesters scattering as police forces attack them. The SCMP notes in their report that protesters also fear the possibility of “rural strongmen” hiring organized crime Triad members to violently attack the protesters. Police claim they have discouraged the strongmen from doing so after a protest last month in which Triads found themselves involved in the melee.
The SCMP adds that many of those protesting– about 30– are part of the group Hong Kong Indigenous, an offshoot of the group that organized the Umbrella protests last year opposing further Chinese intervention in Hong Kong. The members of that group wore armor to the protests for fear of government violence escalating.
Last year, pro-democracy protestors organized a sit-in inspired by the American left-wing Occupy movement, though this time a statement against the Chinese Communist government. The Chinese government ultimately forcibly cleared the Occupy area in Hong Kong, after a summer in which it was revealed that China was paying counter-protestors to organize and appear to support the Chinese government against the Occupy movement. The Chinese government expressed significant concern that such protests would “damage the Chinese economy.”