A Hong Kong restaurant that supported pro-democracy protesters was vandalized by masked men on Thursday morning.
The Lung Mun Café said on its social media platform that its Hung Hom branch was vandalized by four masked men with steel poles at 5am as their staff started preparing for the day ahead.
The masked men broke the glass window and ransacked the restaurant. A monitor for the cashier and two computers were damaged.
Staff at the restaurant continued their business after cleaning up the debris.
The vandalism did not deter the restaurant’s supporters, and many visited after hearing the news. A long queue of people waiting for a seat formed outside the local eatery, while many others ordered take-away.
Since September, the restaurant offered free lunches to secondary school and university students to show support for the pro-democracy protests after reports that many young protesters had spent their allowances buying protective gear for the protests and had no money left for food.
The restaurant also distributed free drinks to people who joined the protests.
The restaurant’s boss, surnamed Cheung, said his support of the protesters may have angered some “blue-ribbons” – meaning pro-government supporters – as he had received many nuisance and threatening calls. Some people had skipped paying for meals in his other restaurants, the Stand News reported.
Cheung said he had not done anything wrong and would keep supporting the students. Meanwhile, he did not report the damage to police, saying he did not trust the force.
A student surnamed Sham had breakfast in the restaurant after hearing the news. Sham said he condemned the people who smashed up the restaurant. He said the masked men should have called for a boycott of the place if they did not like the outlet, not take out their anger with violence.
By the afternoon, there were over 100 people queuing outside the restaurant for a seat. People said they “punished” the restaurant with cash.
Hong Kong people have created a list of shops and restaurants supportive of their cause on a special Google Map, Telegram and other online applications. Businesses include independent shops and chains.
The popularity of the Lung Mun Café is an unusual case in the overall catering industry amid the ongoing protests.
Over the months, the mass protests turned into a wider anti-government movement. Some hardline protesters trashed specific stores, particularly those backed by mainland Chinese or accused of having ties with the triads.
Market sentiment has been low and businesses all complain about being badly hit by the protests.
Chin Chun-wing, the vice-chairman of Hong Kong Bar & Club Association, said business in the bars and clubs had been seriously affected. Revenues from those located in business areas like Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon had dropped by 30% in the past two to three months, while those bars in residential areas fell 20%, news website HK01.com reported.
Chin said revenue had dropped a further 10% in the past two weeks after the city’s railway operator stopped daily services early at 10pm.
Chin added that as the government had not offered any relief measures to them, the association had proposed self-help measures, like providing free shuttle bus services between business districts.
On Tuesday, the government announced a HK$2 billion (US$250 million) relief package for the transport, retail and catering industries by offering subsidies on fuel costs or on rent for those shops and restaurant in government venues.
Meanwhile, travel agencies will get cash incentives, totaling HK$100 million, from the government for each tourist received as part of relief measures for the industry with the aim of encouraging 1,700 tour firms to bring in more business.
Edward Yau Tang-wah, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said on Wednesday that agencies would receive HK$120 for each inbound tourist who stays overnight and HK$100 for each outbound traveler, with a maximum of 500 tourists per travel company. Each agency was eligible to receive up to HK$60,000 from the government between next month and the end of March next year.
However, a guest house owner in Tsim Sha Tsui named Karen said the relief program would not be much help because tourists did not come to the city as they were worried, the Ming Pao Daily reported.
Karen said the occupancy rate at her guest house had dropped to 10% in the summer, compared with a full house in the past few years, with room rates dropped to HK$100 per night from HK$1,000.
She advised the government to talk to the mainland media, ask them a flavor to mention less of the “riots” in their news reports, then the tourists would know it is safe to visit the city.