Published:  01:29 AM, 11 October 2019

HK malls, metro close early as more protests planned

HK malls, metro close early as more protests planned An anti-government protester holds Taiwan national flags during a demonstration. -Reuters

Hong Kong protesters prepared for demonstrations around the city on Thursday as shopping malls said they would close early to avoid becoming targets and the city's metro, which has borne the brunt of the violent unrest, will close three hours early. Hong Kong is one of the world's top shopping cities but four months of often violent protests have severely dented that reputation, with scores of shops vandalized and malls now becoming sites for sit-ins by protesters.

The Asian financial hub is facing its first recession in a decade due to the unrest, with the tourism and retail sectors hit particularly hard.

Protesters have been playing cat and mouse with police, organizing demonstrations at different locations via social media, stretching security resources. Apple Inc on Wednesday removed an app that protesters have used to track police movements, prompting some demonstrators to say they may "visit" its Hong Kong store.

The unrest started more than four months ago in opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill but has widened into a pro-democracy movement amid fears China is encroaching on Hong Kong's freedoms. Those freedoms were guaranteed under a "one country, two systems" formula when Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, which allows autonomy not enjoyed on the mainland.

However, the unrest has pushed the special administrative region into its worst political crisis since 1997 and poses the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. Many young demonstrators are also incensed at what they see as widening inequality, sky high property prices that make it impossible for them to get a place of their own and poor job prospects.

--Reuters, Hong Kong

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