10th April 2021 – (Hong Kong) Pro-democracy Hongkongers and “Yellow” shop supporters engaged in a shopping frenzy at almost all the AbouThai stores selling household products in multiple districts since yesterday. As of this afternoon, thousands continued to show their solidarity by queuing at their outlets. Beelines were even stretched to the streets.

Hong Kong Customs mobilised more than 100 people to search AbouThai’s 25 retail outlets and a warehouse in Tsuen Wan, and seized 14 types of shower gel, household cleaners, etc two days ago. AbouThai was suspected of selling products not affixed with sufficient labels in accordance with the law, a total of 8,805 items worth about HK$400,000 were seized. A 33-year-old male director in charge of operations was arrested. In January 2021, the National Security Department of the police arrested more than 52 pro-democracy activists on suspicion of “subverting state power” in violation of the National Security Law this (6th) morning. In addition to the arrests of a number of former members of the Legislative Council and current district councillors, many people who were planning to participate in the election of the Legislative Council last year were also arrested, including the founder of “AbouThai” retail chain, Mike Lam King-nam who is anti-Beijing.

In an act of revenge, pro-democracy netizens called upon others to report to Hong Kong Customs that products not affixed with sufficient labels in accordance with the law are found in Best Mart 360 stores. A Customs officer was spotted inspecting a Best Mart 360 store in Tsuen Wan yesterday after several reports were allegedly received. In 2019 during the anti-extradition protests, many Best Mart 360 stores were vandalised and damaged by rioters. The senior management and CEO of Best Mart 360 announced that none of the directors or senior managers was members of triads or linked to Fujian triads who are pro-Beijing as claimed by protesters. 

The anti-extradition movement has been waning since 2020 as a result of the passing of the National Security Law, as a result, many pro-democracy Hong Kongers have been in silent protest against the Hong Kong and Central governments for fear of repercussions. Many anti-Beijing politicians have been arrested and charged including the media mogul, Jimmy Lai who is currently being remanded due to multiple charges. A small number of them have even absconded the country by fleeing to U.K. and Australia e.g. Nathan Law, Ted Hui etc. Many of them have colluded with foreign forces in Europe and U.S. to interfere with Hong Kong affairs and sanctions were imposed on government officials.

Hongkongers continue to flock AbouThai stores today.
Long queue during this evening outside an AbouThai store.
Police officers were seen at one of AbouThai stores today to maintain order.

Gone are the lunch gatherings at shopping malls to shout the ‘Five Demands, not one less’ or ‘Liberate Hong Kong, revolutions of times’ as these slogans may constitute a breach of the National Security Law. The gathering ban imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has also effectively stopped the crowd from gathering. A small group of Hongkongers have even opted to migrate to U.K. under the BN(O) programme as they believe that the grass is greener on the other side.

The latest move by Hong Kong Customs to seize the goods of AbouThai stores has been conveniently used as an excuse by pro-democracy Hongkongers to rekindle the hidden anti-government rage as the owner of AbouThai, Mike Lam has been portrayed as the anti-Beijing citizen hero. Angered citizens have regarded the raid by Hong Kong Customs as politically motivated. Since these Hongkongers can no longer take to the streets to participate in anti-extradition protests because most of the anti-government activists are either remanded, imprisoned or charged, they decided to take matters into their own hands by queuing at AbouThai stores to vent their fury against the government.

As long as these supporters voice out their discontent in a civilised manner, it is believed that the authorities will not interfere except for maintaining anti-epidemic regulations in the stores. However, they should bear in mind that the National Security Law is designed only for a small number of persons who are found to be committing the very serious offences of secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces, or terrorism. It is stated that criticism of the government or of the National Security Law itself, would not constitute an offence. Ordinary citizens still enjoy a large amount of freedom as compared with many other countries. It is mind-bogging for normal citizens to think their rights will be taken away if they do not plan to collude with foreign forces to go against the government. In fact, the right question to ask is, what has the government taken away from a law-abiding citizen? Hong Kong is after all part of China and China has been very tolerant and adamant with the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Even the latest change in the local electoral system and “patriots governing Hong Kong” are just tools to fine-tune the “One country, Two systems” principle and is also the minimum standard for the implementation of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Also, the Hong Kong government has given in to Hongkongers by scraping the proposed extradition bill which would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite criminal suspects to places it does not have an extradition treaty with, including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau. The proposed bill would have facilitated Hong Kong to extradite criminal suspects to places it does not have an extradition treaty with, including mainland China, Taiwan and Macau. As a consequence of the bill not being passed, Taiwan’s murder suspect, Chan Tong-kai who is wanted by Taiwan authorities is still a free man in Hong Kong as there is no proper extradition procedure to send him there. The irony in the case has been swept under the carpet by the pro-democracy supporters. Their fight for democracy has indirectly condoned a murderer to walk free. Why are they ignoring the white elephant in the room? and again, what are they really fighting for now?

Taiwan’s authorities initially refused to accept Chan’s surrender, even though they issued an arrest warrant for him. They suspect the whole thing was orchestrated by Beijing to treat Taiwan as a part of China and had insisted Hong Kong first negotiate a judicial assistance agreement before handing over Chan. Hong Kong’s authorities dismissed that as “nonsense” and urged Taiwan to take a suspect willing to surrender himself.