Pro-Beijing lawmakers have lamented how the umbrella movement is causing small businesses and micro-enterprises to suffer. However, there are no “momma and poppa” stores within sight at the occupy camps, particularly in Mong Kok where the encampment is lined with dozens of luxury jewellery stores.
No less than 40 watch and jewellery shops dominate the quarter-of-a-mile occupation zone in Kowloon.
Aimed at newly affluent mainland shoppers, the back-to-back luxury retailers “occupy” dozens more sites further north and southwards down Nathan Road – all the way to the harbour.
Standing on one spot within the camp, it is possible to count five branches of the same jewellery store. Chow Tai Fook, alone, has 45 branches in Kowloon.
Over the past few years, luxury retailers have engaged in an anti-competitive race to buy up ground-level real estate along the famous “golden mile.”
Despite the ongoing occupation on their doorstep, shops within the occupation camp have remained open almost every day.
The jewellers were serving customers as normal over the weekend and tourist arrivals during October’s Golden Week were actually up 4.83 per cent on last year.
According to the Tourism Commission, Hong Kong welcomed almost 41 million tourists from China in 2013.
“Localist” demonstrators, who are well-represented at the camp, are concerned about issues such as the influx of tourists, the inevitable rising rents and “day-tripper” parallel traders in Sheung Shui.
More radical groups such as People Power and Civic Passion are rallying occupiers against what they see as an “encroachment” of mainland influence on Hong Kong.
The rapid gentrification of Nathan Road towards wealthy consumers has also been noted by Evan Fowler, a local writer who is soon to launch a campaign to document Hong Kong identity issues. He says that – compared to Admiralty – the Mong Kok camp is a “more local” protest where people are expressing concern about visitors “coming to Hong Kong and changing the very make up of their home.”
“What you’re seeing in Mong Kok, and with groups like Civic Passion, is a guttural reaction to how [people’s] lives are actually changing,” Fowler says.