Fans, protesters greet HK's first Apple Store
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Security guards scuffled briefly with protesters in the IFC Mall yesterday at the opening of Hong Kong's first Apple Store. But the incident failed to dampen a festive mood among fans of the iconic gadgetry.
Angered by what they see as violations of workers' rights by the company that makes iPhones and iPads for Apple, about 20 protesters unfurled a banner at the new shop reading: 'No More iSlave'.
The protesters, however, were outnumbered by about 500 people who had queued outside the shop, some overnight.
Spirits were high ahead of the opening as youthful Apple staff in blue shirts cheered and ran along the queue, giving high fives to fans with cult-like fervour, yelling, 'See you on the other side!' and repeatedly chanting 'IFC!' and 'Apple!'
Jenny Zhang Yiyao, a master's student from Los Angeles studying at the University of Hong Kong, said she had joined the queue at 3am with a friend. 'It's a historic moment,' she said. 'The store has an Apple vibe: simple and classy. The view is beautiful. It could even become a tourist attraction.'
Joe Chan Cho-yan said he had waited since 7am with two friends. 'The Genius Bar is the best thing about the store,' he said, referring to the team of staff offering personal technical support for those who make an online appointment.
'Before this, I'd have to consult an online forum, but now I can speak to a real person.'
Another fan said: 'I won't be buying from resellers any more because I know Apple will take better care of its products. You never know if resellers have dropped the product on the floor beforehand.'
At about 11am, 20 or so protesters from the non-profit advocacy group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour held a prearranged demonstration on the second floor of the mall, where the upper floor of the Apple Store is, unfurling their banner from a balcony.
The group was protesting against the labour practices of Foxconn Technology, the Taiwanese-owned company that makes Apple products at factories on the mainland.
There was a commotion as security officers tried to pull the banner back from the balcony. The tussle lasted five minutes, then the guards walked away. The banner was removed 90 minutes later.
'We just wanted to protest peacefully,' said one of the demonstrators, whose allegations include unsafe working conditions and low wages.