Stores of pro-democracy retail chain AbouThai saw a rush on Friday, a day after the company was raided by customs and had products worth around HK$400,000 seized.
A 33-year-old director of the firm was arrested on Thursday as around a hundred officers stormed a Tsuen Wan warehouse and 25 of the chain's shops, confiscating more than eight thousand bottles of bath gel, bleach and detergent. Customs said the bottles lacked the necessary warning labels.
On lunchtime on Friday, scores of customers with baskets full of goods were queuing up to pay outside a branch of AbouThai in Admiralty.
One man said the way customs had handled the case was simply not fair.
"When you say they are missing the labels, you should tell them to add the labels, not confiscate the whole stock. I would like to help buy the stock to support the store owner," he said.
There had been calls on social media for people to support the retail chain, and several other shops known for their pro-democracy stance offered discounts for customers who had also bought products from AbouThai.
But at a press conference, customs defended their raid, saying the operation was in line with usual practice.
Officers said action was taken after officers received complaints and test-bought some products.
They said the goods seized mostly only had labels in Thai, and sometimes also in English, and tests would be arranged to check whether the products comply with safety standards.
Vincent Chan, from customs' consumer protection bureau, explained why the warehouse was also raided and why so many officers were deployed.
"Even though the goods are stored in the warehouse of the retail group, we have reason to believe that these law-breaking consumer goods may be supplied in the market, just like the goods we seized in the shops," he said.
"In this case, there are 25 retail shops in many districts, and such a large warehouse involved. We needed to mobilise about 100 customs officers to conduct the investigation," he said.
He added that the department strongly condemns any "false accusation" that the raid was an "act of repression".
AbouThai was founded by Mike Lam who was released on bail last month after being charged with subversion, along with 46 other pro-democracy figures.