Hundreds of protesters planted themselves in the lobby of Sha Tin’s glitzy New Town Plaza on Monday as chaos gripped the city during a multi-district strike.
The mass sit-in came as unrest broke out in at least six other districts — Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan, Wong Tai Sin, Tai Po, Mong Kok and Admiralty. Transport services ground to a halt in a city-wide protest over the government’s handling of the extradition bill crisis.
Riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray at multiple locations to clear road occupations.
Crowds began to trickle into New Town Plaza in the morning, draping several large black and white banners, including two that read “Withdraw the evil law” and “Sha Tin add oil,” over the barriers on upper floors.
Meanwhile, multiple “Lennon Walls” – a term given to message boards made of Post-It notes containing mostly messages of support for protesters – appeared around the plaza.
Shops in the mall, which is privately owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties, had individually closed their shutters ahead of the strike.
A clerk at Swedish outdoor clothing supplier Haglöfs told HKFP that she was waiting for management to give the green light to close the store.
Hundreds of anti-extradition law protesters have occupied the lobby of New Town Plaza in Sha Tin – one of seven districts where a mass strike is being held – chanting "Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time" and other slogans. #HongKong #antiELAB https://t.co/kmLJLFCnSX pic.twitter.com/BD5dIwR3L0
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) August 5, 2019
The plaza briefly displayed a message urging people to “take care of the elderly and children” – owing to overcrowding – on a large display screen.
Earlier in the day, the city’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a rare public appearance that the protests had escalated beyond their original demands. She also condemned the violence, saying that protesters had adopted a “scorched earth” policy.
Angus Lo, a 35-year-old pilot who came to the Sha Tin plaza on his day off, told HKFP he was disappointed by Lam’s remarks and criticised them as substanceless.
“Condemning the violence is really easy. You have to come up with a solution, you’re the chief executive,” he said. “You have to remember, all that’s happening these days is basically because back in day one, she refused to listen to us.”
Secondary school students Oscar Li, 16, and Sam Li, 17, were revising for their exams on the lobby of New Town Plaza.
The pair told HKFP that they are both Sha Tin residents and decided to come to the protest despite having to study: “Freedom is more important,” Oscar said.
Kurt Yau, a 31-year-old teacher and local resident, told HKFP that despite the disruption earlier in the day, the strike was necessary to influence the government.
“This is a way to stop people from going to work and I think that’s necessary to achieve our goals,” he said.
Yau added that the location of the Sha Tin strike was symbolic since New Town Plaza was the site of violent clashes between police and protesters on July 14.
Trains at Sha Tin’s MTR station, which is connected to the mall, were operating as normal despite the earlier transport disruption by protesters.