0152 GMT December 14, 2019
The demonstration in the town of Sheung Shui, not far from the Chinese city of Shenzhen, started peacefully but devolved into scuffles and shouting, with police firing pepper spray at protesters who threw umbrellas and hard hats back, Reuters reported.
The protest is the latest in a string of demonstrations that has roiled the former British colony for more than a month, fueling its biggest political crisis since China regained control in 1997.
Sometimes violent street protests have drawn in millions, with hundreds even storming the legislature on July 1 to oppose the now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to China to face trial.
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 the central business district, but demonstrators have recently begun to look elsewhere to widen support by taking up narrower, more domestic issues.
In Sheung Shui as protesters chanted demands in Mandarin, China’s official language, for Chinese traders to go home. Many street-level shops were shuttered during the march.
Mainland 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 the town’s identity.
Last Sunday, tens of thousands marched in one of Kowloon’s most popular tourist shopping areas, trying to persuade mainland Chinese tourists to back opposition to the extradition bill.