Four top government officials have attacked Sunday's "anti-locust" protest, saying it humiliated mainland visitors and tarnished the city's image.
Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor condemned the protesters for disrupting public order, "directly affecting" the relationship with the mainland and harming the tourist industry.
"We will absolutely not tolerate it if such events happen again," said Lam. "I believe such behaviour belongs to only a few extremists and definitely does not represent most citizens' opinions and their values."
Commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung and security minister Lai Tung-kwok also condemned the demonstration, while constitutional and mainland affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said the "barbaric and uncivilised activities" ran against Hong Kong's values.
So said: "The harassment of the tourists on Canton Road is very regrettable. We strongly condemn this sort of action." About 100 protesters called on the government to curb the number of mainland visitors. They called tourists "locusts" for overwhelming the city and hogging its resources and were referred to as Shina, a derogatory term used by the Japanese against the Chinese after the first Sino-Japanese war ended in 1895.
The protesters marched from the Star Ferry pier to Canton Road, a street lined with luxury stores popular with mainland tourists. Police intervened after scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and passers-by opposed to the march.
So said: "The government understands that growth in the number of tourists has a certain level of impact on the lives of Hongkongers. But tourism has contributed a lot in creating job opportunities. It makes up 4.5 per cent of our economy."
Lai said the police would determine whether anyone should be prosecuted for disorderly behaviour. "Suitable action will be taken if [the police] have sufficient evidence," Lai added.
But protest convenor Ronald Leung Kam-shing, 37, said he would not be intimidated by the criticism. He said: "I will continue to organise such campaigns because the ministers' remarks today have shown they have ignored the public's demand for a curb on mainland tourists."
He admitted calling the mainland tourists "locusts", but said he did not refer to them as Shina. He did not think either term was discriminatory.
William Wong Wai-sheung, chief executive of the Lukfook jewellery chain, said its Tsim Sha Tsui store was forced to close for 10 minutes by the protest. He said tourists lost their desire to make purchases because of it, and estimated he suffered a loss of HK$500,000 in sales.
The Equal Opportunities Commission condemned the protesters' "contemptuous and vilifying remarks" and said they had raised social tensions.
But a spokeswoman said the "locusts" and Shina remarks fell outside the purview of the Race Discrimination Ordinance, as Hongkongers and mainlanders are of the same race.
Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao