‘Blame the government, not us’: Hong Kong anti-parallel trade protesters hit back at ‘riot’ claims
Anti-parallel trading protesters hit back this morning after they were accused of behaving like rioters in rallies that turned violent on Sunday.
Civic Passion member Cheng Chung-tai, whose group took part in the protests, said the demonstrators were residents who were defending their interests against an influx of mainland tourists.
“The origin of the protests is the government policy [on mainland tourists]. The public can’t tolerate it anymore,” Cheng told an RTHK radio show.
On Sunday, protesters gathered in Sheung Shui first, then Tuen Mun and Tsim Sha Tsui.
Video posted online showed them insulting a mother and her young daughter who were carrying luggage in Tuen Mun.
The mother, speaking in Cantonese, opened her luggage to show that she was only carrying children’s books. The mother accused the protesters of bullying, as her apparently frightened daughter began to cry loudly.
However, Cheng said the media had “magnified” those scenes.
READ MORE: ‘Radical’ anti-parallel trade protesters hurting Hong Kong’s image and damaging business, retailers say
"What is shown in the video is the girl crying. But the girl was actually crying to ask her mother to stop quarrelling," Cheng said
"What I want to say is that don’t let the video of her crying make you feel that the protesters must be wrong and [the mother and daughter] must be the old and weak."
Watch: Mother and daughter confronted by Hong Kong anti-parallel trading protesters
In another video, an elderly man who said he was a Hongkonger was seen being pushed to the ground as he wheeled a trolley through a crowd of protesters after playing music with friends in a Tuen Mun Park.
"I was on my usual way home. I have no idea why I was kicked.," the man, who identified himself as Uncle Kuen, told local media today. "[They were] completely lawless people," he said.
He said he was a Hong Kong-born resident who had been playing erhu and saxophone in the Tuen Mun Park for more than 10 years.
Cheng alleged that the elderly man had actually "taken the initiative to provoke protesters" beforehand.
After a second radio show today, Cheng stressed his group did not advocate violence. But he said it would not restrict any member from taking action they had thought through.
He said the protesters were only ordinary residents that had been frustrated by problems caused by mainland tourists.
"The residents' concern is that every day they are hit by suitcases ... I think we have to be fair. Do not measure ordinary residents on the moral standards for sages," he said.
"The reason I say this is [the protesters] are not the government. They do not have power," said Cheng, who is a teaching fellow at Polytechnic University's applied social science department.
Cheng said the city was "sick" and that protesting, though it might cause chaos, was a way to put it back on the right track.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok yesterday condemned the protesters’ action as “close to that of rioters”.
Cheng, who joined Sunday’s protests in Tsim Sha Tsui, said residents had tried to make their complaints heard in several different ways in the past, such as staging silent rallies, but the government had done little to help solve their grievances.
Callers to the show disapproved of the protesters’ action.
A Mr Cheung said he believed that the violent behaviour occurred only in individual cases but nevertheless he did not accept it. “You can’t do whatever you like under the banner of free expression. This is wrong,” he said.
Another caller, Ms Law, a Tuen Mun resident, said she wanted to see the government do more to solve parallel trading but disapproved of the protesters’ methods.
“What happened was merely venting anger. It deviated from my standards. I am concerned this will detract from our cause,” she said.
The protesters’ behaviour outraged many internet users. Bloggers at online forum discuss.com.hk said the activists were "shameless" when confronting the girl and her mother shown in the video.
"They are a shame for Hongkongers," a poster called so_olala123 said.
"That was outrageous. She is only a small kid who knows nothing," one user called 931931 said.
Another poster named UC-u120903 said: "The protesters were over the top. Did they have the power to require the mother to open her suitcase for them to have a look?"
Three activists were charged by police and appeared at Tuen Mun Court this morning.
Two boys, both aged 16, are charged with assaulting a police officer, while student Jeanette Chan, 21, faces one count of resisting a police officer. All three defendants claimed they were assualted by police.
Acting Principal Magistrate Li Wai-chi said the three defendants were young and had a clean record, which made him "disappointed".
He cited an old Chinese saying, noting that it seemed to him they rarely travelled overseas.
"Many Hongkongers travel abroad. They don’t want this kind of treatment either," he said.
Li granted bail to the three defendants and adjourned the case to May 5 for police to investigate and seek legal advice.
Police arrested a 24-year-old man in Sha Tin last night in connection with a case of common assault, taking the total number of arrests related to Sunday’s protests to seven. The other suspects include a 13-year-old boy and two men aged 18 and 26, who were released on bail pending further investigation.
Meanwhile, officers are poring over video clips in an effort to trace at least 10 more protesters, a police source said.
The source stressed that police had enough manpower to tackle guerilla tactics by protesters and would take a firm approach to deal with troublemakers.
“We will take stronger and stringent enforcement actions to deter irresponsible behaviour,” the source said.