Calm returned to Mong Kok on Tuesday evening, after a night of unrest on Monday. The food night market reopened and hungry Hong Kongers filling the streets.

Tandoori chicken
Tandoori chicken. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Violent clashes between police and protesters angered over the government’s clearing of street hawkers broke out on Monday evening. More than 120 people were injured and 61 were arrested.

Street hawkers often appear during the Lunar New Year holidays as many restaurants remain closed.

Grilled squid.
Grilled squid. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

One food stall owner surnamed Chan, who was selling grilled squid, said that the clashes did not affect her choice to open again.

“It’s their business to protest, my business is another matter… I stayed [on Monday night] till the clashes started,” she said. “I have been doing this every year – I can’t remember how many years… more than 20 years.”

On Tuesday, she came to Portland Street near Langham Place – a popular spot among street hawkers – and left after midnight, saying that business was “okay.”

Stinky tofu
Stinky tofu. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Another street hawker surnamed Kam selling “Stinky tofu” – a popular local snack – said she did not open a stall on Monday but decided to come on Tuesday – however, business was not very good.

“Everybody said on television ‘don’t come to Mong Kok, Mong Kok is dangerous,’” she said. “The MTR didn’t stop at Mong Kok until after 9am, it was chaotic – who dares to come to Mong Kok?”

“Not much business this year,” Kam added. She said that she has worked as a street hawker every year during the Lunar New Year holidays.

The crowd on Portland Street.
The crowd on Portland Street. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Many Hongkongers consider the annual food night market to be a tradition.

This year, Mong Kok was one of the few places left where a night food market took place, as the famous Kwelin Night Market in Sham Shui Po was filled with Food and Environmental Hygiene Department preventing hawkers from opening.

Deep fried intestine.
Deep fried intestine. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

“I was looking at Facebook until 8am [regarding the unrest],” said a physiotherapist who gave his name as Victor, buying a grilled scallop for his girlfriend.

“There’s no need to be afraid that the unrest will happen again, and we should come out to help the protesters if it happens again,” he said. Victor said he would stay until midnight and spend around HK$300.

Ronald Leung Kam-shing.
Ronald Leung Kam-shing. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Ronald Leung Kam-shing, an activist, was eating a bowl of fishballs on Tuesday evening. He was also at the protest on Monday night.

“I hope the police let the street hawkers do their business for one night,” Leung said. “I came last night to eat something, but of course it was interrupted by someone.”

A fishball stall.
A fishball stall. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

But he said he may not come again on Wednesday night: “I can’t eat street food everyday, right?”

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.