Scores of protesters marched through Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday in an "anti-locust" campaign demanding the government curb mainland visitors.
Protesters said a massive influx of mainland visitors - dubbed "locusts" by critics, who accuse them of overwhelming the city and hogging its resources - had hit the livelihoods of locals.
During the 90-minute protest about 100 people marched from the Star Ferry pier to Canton Road, a street lined with luxury goods stores popular with mainlanders. The march got off to a tense start when scuffles broke out between protesters and people opposed to the demonstration. Police had to intervene.
The protesters waved placards and chanted slogans such as "go back to China" and "reclaim Hong Kong" as they marched. Some carried colonial-era flags, a popular symbol for those who want autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.
Some booed and shouted abuse at Putonghua-speaking passers-by. The protesters also shouted abuse at mainland customers inside shops. Some shoppers took pictures while others ignored them. But some Canton Road jewellery shops closed.
Shanghai visitor Ma He said the protesters were disrespectful. "Are they not Chinese themselves? I heard that Hong Kong people were educated and civilised. It seems I was wrong."
A visitor from Shenzhen said: "We are here to shop. It helps the economy of Hong Kong. I do not understand why they do not welcome us."
Protest convenor Ronald Leung Kam-shing said he was pleased with the response after organising the campaign online.
"We do not need political parties. Just through the internet we can get so many people to come out," he said. "I think the government should listen to our voice seriously. It has to stop allowing Chinese tourists into Hong Kong … We do not want them."
Among the protesters but keeping a low profile was primary school teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze, who shot to fame for swearing at police officers over their handling of a Falun Gong protest.
A pro-Beijing group, Voice of Loving Hong Kong, staged a rival "Welcome to Hong Kong" campaign on Canton Road. About 10 members distributed leaflets wishing visitors a happy stay.
Tourism from the mainland has boomed as the nation's economy has grown and rules forcing visitors to join tour groups have been eased. Some 40.8 million mainland visitors came last year.