A company running a controversial multilevel marketing scheme evicted dozens of mainlanders from its Causeway Bay sales centre yesterday in the presence of police, ending a five-day protest against the company.
The protesters had been clamouring for substantial refunds from Digital Crown Holdings HK (DCHL) as compensation for buying its wine and health and beauty products, which they claimed had almost no resale value. Some said they had lost as much as HK$1 million.
Yesterday, about 80 people resumed their rally before security guards started to clear the premises on Canal Road West as dozens of policemen stood by.
A few protesters were carried out and one was sent to hospital. Others walked out on their own. Protesters became agitated when a man was taken to a police van, although he was then released.
One man shouted: "Hong Kong is part of China, but we are bullied by people from Hong Kong." He said the company's operators would "face consequences". The police got a dose of the resentment as well, for "helping a cheating company".
The crowd dispersed an hour later, after singing the national anthem. A volunteer for the group said they would be back.
"There's not much we can do at this moment, but we will gather more people and return on Monday." He said they had approached lawmakers, but none would help them.
DCHL operates by dividing distributors into seven levels of seniority that grow exponentially. Individuals are encouraged to build up sales networks in which each level is at least five times bigger than the one below it.
In Hong Kong, the company operates legally as multilevel marketing is not banned, but such tactics are banned across the border as a pyramid scheme.
The protesters said they were tricked into buying wine, jewellery, cosmetics and fragrances that had almost no resale value. They had to spend at least HK$67,000 each time.
About 80 people have registered for DCHL's offer of a refund of HK$67,000 each, but the firm gave no details and has since been unreachable. Earlier, it said it was trying to rethink its marketing tactics.
The protesters began their action on Monday, marching to government headquarters before rallying at DCHL's Causeway Bay office. They tried to storm the offices a day later, but were stalled by police armed with shields.
Thirty people protested on the roof of the office on Wednesday night. The next day, protesters took their pleas to the central government's liaison office.
Video: Police force Mainland Chinese protesters from Hong Kong beauty product company office