(Bloomberg) -- Protesters in Hong Kong continued to target shopping malls in the city, harassing mainland Chinese and clashing with police, who used pepper spray on demonstrators.
At least 14 people were detained at a mall in the Sheung Shui district near the Chinese border, government-backed broadcaster RTHK reported. The anti-government protesters singled out mainland Chinese shoppers, who locals blame for shortages after buying up goods to resell in China, driving up prices.
Prior to Saturday’s detentions, police had arrested 336 people over the Christmas holiday when protesters primarily targeted retailers, the Associated Press reported.
The demonstrations at shopping malls are the prelude to a major rally planned on Jan. 1. It’s being organized by the Civil Human Rights Front, which has helmed some of the biggest peaceful protests since the demonstrations against China’s tightening grip over Hong Kong began in June.
The protests were initially ignited by a proposed extradition law that would have allowed fugitives to be sent to China to stand trial. Though the bill was withdrawn, protests have persisted, with demands broadening to include more democracy and direct elections of the city’s leader.
The tumult over the holiday adds to what’s been an abysmal six-month period for Hong Kong’s retailers. Not only has the unrest dissuaded many of the city’s residents from visiting stores, it’s also sapped the flow of tourists, especially those from mainland China. Hong Kong, once a mecca for shoppers, posted a record 24% plunge in retail sales in October, and the city is now mired in its first recession in a decade.
“Many members of the public and tourists coming to Hong Kong were naturally disappointed that their Christmas Eve celebrations have been ruined by a group of reckless and selfish rioters,” Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement on Thursday. “Such illegal acts have not only dampened the festive mood but also adversely affected local businesses.”
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