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China Squashes Shipments of Black Clothing, Unofficial Protest Uniform, to Hong Kong

China is tightening its vice grip on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Now, the country is banning bulk shipments of black clothing to the embattled region.

After months of tense and sometimes violent protests in Hong Kong, Chinese couriers have stopped delivering orders of black garments along with “masks, bulk orders of umbrellas or sticks,” Reuters reported.

Customer service operators at Hong Kong’s largest courier firms, STO Express, ZTO Express and YTO Express, told the publication that the bans were enacted in August. A member of the STO Express team said the country’s government was trying to keep “any items that can be used by mobs” out of the hands of protesters.

While individual pieces of black clothing can still be ordered inside of Hong Kong, shipments with more than five pieces are being flagged, he added.

Black clothing has become the unofficial uniform of protesters throughout the region, who began mobilizing this spring as the government in Beijing began exerting more forceful control over Hong Kong.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was ceded to China in 1997, but operated under a “one country, two systems” rule of law that gave the region’s residents some freedoms denied to Mainland citizens.

Tensions mounted in March when Hong Kong’s government proposed a law that would allow criminals to be extradited to Mainland China.

While the extradition bill was suspended on June 15, the aura of unrest has remained as protesters push for pro-democracy causes. Since the summer, police and protesters have clashed amid destruction. Reuters reported that the protesters have lit street fires and vandalized metro stations and public buildings, as well as storming the legislature. Police have retaliated with “tear gas, rubber bullets, water canon and several live rounds.”

The protests have also had adverse effects on Hong Kong’s retail businesses, which have had to close intermittently amid the turmoil. Some companies have elected to pull back on expansion plans to the region, while others, like Italian luxury brand Prada, have debated breaking their leases.

In August, New York-based investment bank Cowen & Co. projected that brands could see a sales hit between 10 percent and 60 percent if protests continue to plague Hong Kong through the end of the year.