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Hong Kong shops, workers in rare strike to ‘defend freedom’

Hong Kong shops, workers in rare strike to ‘defend freedom’

HONG KONG : Hong Kong retailer Alan Li shut up shop on Wednesday, joining about 100 businesses and numerous workers in a rare strike to protest against an extradition bill that many fear will undermine freedom and confidence in the commercial hub.

“Even though we can’t do business for a day, for me there is nothing more important than defending our freedom of speech and freedom of thought,” said Li, 38, before closing his Alca&Co shop in Tsim Sha Tsui, a shopping district across the harbor from Hong Kong’s high-rise finance center.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, many of them young and clad in black, surrounded Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday, forcing it to postpone a second round of debate on the bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Up to a million people took to the streets on Sunday, protest organizers estimated, to denounce the bill in the biggest protest the city has seen for years.

More than 100 shops announced strikes in social media posts. Businesses included retail store Gethemall, transport start-up Call4Van, coffee shops, bookstores, electronics and clothes shops, eateries and florists.

“Ah that pesky Hong Kong spirit is rearing its ugly head again. Refusing to back down in the face of adversity,” Bleak House Books said in a Facebook post announcing its strike.

Hong Kong retail sales and tourism receipts:

The action by businesses and workers underlines the extent that the extradition bill has struck a chord in a city that has grown increasingly wary of what many see as undue meddling by Beijing.