Dozens of people were arrested Sunday after scuffles broke out between villagers and protesters demonstrating against parallel traders from mainland China.
Police said 33 people were arrested, including a 13-year-old boy, the Associated Press reported Monday.
The clashes highlighted deepening tensions over the growing influx of mainland Chinese shoppers into Hong Kong.
Police wielded batons and used pepper spray after the crowds turned unruly when the demonstrators clashed with villagers opposed to the protest.
Mainland shoppers have been blamed for voracious buying habits that distort the local economy.
The protesters marched in Yuen Long district in a neighborhood where dozens of pharmacies sell baby formula to cater to mainlanders.
Numerous food safety scares in China have made baby formula a hot commodity for mainland visitors to Hong Kong, which has a reputation for authentic and high-quality goods.
The protesters complain that the mainlanders’ shopping sprees drive up retail rents and force out ordinary shopkeepers.
“There is a lot of anger from other people on Chinese smugglers because we just don’t like how they drive up all the prices, drive up everything, create a lot of chaos, and we aren’t benefiting from it,” said protester Kelvin Lee of Hong Kong Indigenous, one of the two groups that organized the demonstration.
He said residents of the suburban towns were fed up with the traffic jams and piles of garbage created by the mainland Chinese shoppers.
Last year, 47.3 million people from mainland China visited Hong Kong.
Many shopkeepers rolled down their storefront shutters ahead of the protest and few mainland Chinese visitors were seen on the streets, drawing complaints from local residents.
“They’ve made it so that everyone has had to close up shop, and they can’t do business. People have to pay rent,” said Choi Wai-leung, 61.
There have been at least two other rowdy shopping protests in Hong Kong’s suburban towns this year, including one last month inside a shopping mall.
Cosmetics, medicine and luxury goods are also popular purchases in Hong Kong, where a lack of sales tax makes them cheaper.
The shoppers often work for shadowy networks that organize the resale of the goods across the border for a profit, in what’s known as parallel trading.
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