HONG KONG—Tech giant
shut its stores early citywide on Monday, as fears of escalating violence and spiraling lawlessness linked to weekslong protests spurred concern among businesses and the public.
A day after police fired tear gas in clashes with thousands of protesters, Hong Kong remains on edge as officials conceded no ground and activists accused the government of coddling a rise in vigilante justice. In the north of the city, a mob of white-shirted men stormed a subway station late Sunday and beat people whom they blamed for taking part in the earlier antigovernment protests, leaving 45 people injured.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam condemned the violence Monday as she was questioned by reporters about a breakdown in law and order in the city following weeks of antigovernment protests. But fears of new clashes in the city’s northern districts spread on social media.
Moves by some businesses to close early come as concern rises over the impact of the social turmoil on the city’s economy.
Apple joined a raft of other businesses across the city that chose to shut or send staff home early on Monday. A spokeswoman for the Cupertino, Calif.-company directed queries to information on store hours on its website.
Five of the semiautonomous region’s six Apple stores shut at 4 p.m., five to six hours ahead of normal closing hours. The remaining store was shut all day. Apple’s website referred to Monday’s arrangement as “special store hours.”
At a branch of
’s Hollister—next to an Apple store in the shopping belt of Causeway Bay—a Hollister employee said some staff were allowed to leave early to get home to Yuen Long, a suburb close the border with mainland China where the attack at the subway station happened Sunday night.
at 2:40 p.m. Monday sent a notice to Hong Kong employees, asking those who live in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun, another suburb, to “leave the office as soon as possible,” according to an internal email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Estée Lauder didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong,” the email said, advising staff to avoid certain malls in these suburbs.
Businesses in malls in Yuen Long mostly shut early on Monday too. Police didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
This isn’t the first time that major stores have shut early in the protests that have rocked Hong Kong these past two months. Dozens of retailers in and around downtown, including the massive IFC Mall that greets most tourists upon arriving on Hong Kong island, sent staff home early or completely shut in mid-June during an incident in which protesters blocked roads and clashed with police.
—Eli Binder, Joyu Wang and Natasha Khan contributed to this article.
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