Hundreds of protesters descended upon an upscale shopping mall in Sha Tin on Tuesday for the second night in a row, as they accused New Town Plaza’s management of assisting the riot police during clashes on Sunday.
22 people were hospitalised and over 40 arrested as violence erupted between police and protesters at the mall on Sunday evening. The clashes took place after a peaceful anti-extradition law rally in the afternoon, which saw thousands take to the streets.
A spokesperson from the mall’s owner Sun Hung Kai Properties said that they did not call the police on Sunday, and had “no prior knowledge of the police operation” clear protesters from its premises.
However, many local residents and protesters have refused to accept Sun Hung Kai’s response, and have been demanding answers from the company’s top brass for two nights in a row.
On Monday evening, the New Town Plaza customer service desk was surrounded by a crowd of around a hundred, but on Tuesday the turnout was closer to a several hundred.
Protesters chanted “Sun Hung Kai, explain” and “shame on Sun Hung Kai for selling out Hongkongers.” Some accused the mall of shutting off the air-conditioning, but a staff member at the desk denied doing so.
This local resident blasted authorities for thinking of them as "nothing," adding that the current shopping mall occupation is leaderless, made up of only enraged members of the community. He received an applause from others afterwards. pic.twitter.com/7raNbcY012
— Jennifer Creery 紀寶瑩 (@creery_j) July 16, 2019
Several staff members said they were unwell and were escorted out by paramedics. A group of protesters later moved to the mall’s control room on the first floor and waited outside its entrance.
“The real estate management didn’t [fulfil] its duty to protect the patrons,” a local resident – who did not wish to be named – told HKFP. “Whenever I’m shopping here, or just passing by, they have a responsibility to protect our safety.”
“I’m a Sha Tin resident for over 40 years… this is my community, I would say what happened on Sunday night was shocking.”
After Sun Hung Kai staff left the customer service desk, protesters spread out over the mall and put up ad-hoc “Lennon Wall” message boards. Some messages accused the mall operator of being in league with the police, and promised to come to the mall every day until Sun Hung Kai responds.
On Monday evening, police officers were also spotted at the mall as they gathered evidence, including CCTV footage.
In a statement to HKFP, the mall operator said it “deeply regrets that the incident had caused a number of injuries in the shopping mall, as well as the inconvenience caused to customers, visitors and tenants.”
Sun Hung Kai added that the government lease of New Town Plaza required that a number of public passageways – including those leading to the MTR station and the bus terminus – to be kept open around the clock.
The now-suspended extradition bill would allow the city to handle case-by-case fugitive transfers to jurisdictions with no prior arrangements, including China. Critics have said residents would be at risk of extradition to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections. Large-scale demonstrations have rocked the city since June, and have evolved into protests over democracy, alleged police brutality and other community grievances.