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Monday, March 2, 2015, 10:25

33 protesters arrested in Yuen Long scuffles

By Sylvia Chang and Kahon Chan in Hong Kong
33 protesters arrested in Yuen Long scuffles
One of theshops on a main street in Yuen Long is forced to shut its door as protesters against parallel traders clash with anti-protest crowds. (Roy Liu / China Daily)
Hundreds of anti-parallel trade protesters, led by nativist groups that had previously brought chaos to Tuen Mun and Sha Tin, left a trace of chaos in downtown Yuen Long on Sunday as they halted traffic, stormed shops and ran into violent scuffles with local residents and the police.

Thirty-three protesters were arrested including 31 men and 2 women, aged between 13 and 74. They were arrested for various offences, including possession of offensive weapons, attacking police, obstructing police from executing duties, common assault, and other illegal acts, said Lau Mei-yam, a superintendent at Yuen Long Police Station, at a press briefing.

Five police officers were injured in the chaos that began on Sunday afternoon.

Hundreds of protesters congregated in an anti-parallel trade march initiated by two nativist groups, the Hong Kong Indigenous and Civic Passion. They demanded the scrapping of a policy which grants some Shenzhen residents unlimited access to Hong Kong within a year.

The rally came after two previous protests which caused havoc in shopping malls in Sha Tin and Tuen Mun. On Sunday, the protesters chanted “safeguard Yuen Long” as they marched from the MTR Long Ping Station. Most of the perpetrators had their faces partially covered by masks or hoods.

Along the approved protest route, demonstrators came into conflict with groups of Yuen Long residents who were apparently upset by the props and slogans held by separatist advocates. The standoff came to full play outside a drug store selling baby formula and other products.

Amidst the scuffles, police officers were reportedly hit by water bottles and protesters were seen bleeding. One of the five injured police officers was surrounded and beaten up by the mob.

The police used pepper spray and baton to break up the violent crowd. But the protesters returned in the night to try to “rescue” those arrested.

A total of 13 bus routes were diverted, and light rail service was disrupted for 20 minutes when the protesters swarmed the main thoroughfare in downtown Yuen Long in late afternoon. The last of protesters dispersed after 10pm on Sunday.

Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said that the police would not tolerate any form of violent confrontation. He affirmed that the police would enforce the law resolutely against anyone committing an illegal act. The police, in a statement, condemned the lawbreakers and reassured the public that order will be restored.

Leung Che-cheung, a lawmaker and chairman of Yuen Long District Council, called the activists “rude troublemakers”, saying that more than 30 shops in the troubled area were forced to close.

Rural chiefs in Yuen Long had earlier vowed to mobilize villagers to clear the streets of protesters if necessary. But they called off the action on Saturday.

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