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Hong Kong catering industry badly hit by violent protests

By Wang Wenwen, Chen Qingqing and Lu Wenao in Hong Kong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/24 14:36:49

Shops and restaurants in the Tsim Sha Tsui business district closed after a violent protest during a weekend in August which used to be the peak time for shoppers and diners. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT


Shops and restaurants in the Tsim Sha Tsui business district closed after a violent protest during a weekend in August which used to be the peak time for shoppers and diners. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT


The ongoing protests in Hong Kong have taken their toll on the city's catering industry, a local survey showed, and people in this sector said they have already felt the chill.

The Eating Establishment Employees General Union of Hong Kong recently surveyed more than 500 restaurant employees and 90 percent of the surveyed said the restaurants they work for have been affected by the current social unrest in Hong Kong. 

Due to the looming global economic depression and a series of demonstrations that have escalated to violent attacks since June, local restaurant employees are now facing unprecedented challenges, according to a statement the union sent to the Global Times on Friday. 

The survey showed that 98 percent of respondents considered the protests to be weighing on their businesses, and 47 percent said the revenue of their companies had slumped more than 30 percent lately. 51 percent had planned to downsize employees to tackle rising operation difficulties. 

The union said that over the past two months, it has handled dozens of cases of restaurants closures. These restaurants were located in various parts of the city and the closures involved more than 700 people and incurred losses of nearly millions of Hong Kong dollars.

A businessman who runs a baked rice restaurant in Mong Kok told the Global Times that summer is usually the peak tourism season, and many tourists used to line up in front to his restaurant every night until 10 pm. 

"It's very disappointing this year, you can see. We will close the door around 9 pm as we receive very few people every night now," he said. 

Shops and restaurants in the Tsim Sha Tsui business district closed after a violent protest during a weekend in August which used to be the peak time for shoppers and diners. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT


During the weekends, the restaurant has to shut its door even earlier, as black-clad protesters come to the neighborhood and illegally occupy the streets, which has led to a series of intense standoffs with police. 

Xie Yanli works at a restaurant in Mong Kok. She has been working as a waitress for over 10 years. She said that she has been affected due to the decline in business caused by the protests. 

In the past, customers would have to queue outside her restaurant at peak times, but now the average daily revenue of her restaurant is even less than what would have been earned during a lunch time in the past.

Xie told the Global Times that she used to take one day off per week, but now she has to take two or three days off given the uncertainties. 

"The sluggish business across the industry has forced many people to leave, pushing up the unemployment rate. However, many youngsters do not realize this and do not value what they have got," Xie said.

Hong Kong's economic growth is mainly driven by the services sector. As one of the major pillars in the services sector, catering is now facing an unemployment crisis due to the anti-government movement. 

From May to July, the unemployment rate in the restaurant business reached 5 percent, involving 12,900 people. This was much higher than the city's overall unemployment rate of 2.9 percent, making it the sector with the highest unemployment rate, the statement showed.  

The union said it considers the current situation to be the worst ever seen, and it called for the restoration of peace and normality.

The sweeping protests have also cast a shadow on other sectors such as retail.

A man in his 50s has run a retail stall at the Victoria Harbour for more than 10 years. He told the Global Times that most of the tourists he sees are from the mainland, but since the massive protests began in late June, few people are coming. 

He said that his daily sales have dropped nearly two thirds, from almost HK$2,000 to only about HK$700, 30 percent of which is his net income. 

"We are the victims, but we cannot do anything about it," he said.

A salesperson at a Chow Tai Fook store on Nathan Road, the main road of the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui shopping area, told the Global Times that they would definitely shut their door earlier when there is a violent protest, while the store normally closes at 10 pm.




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