(eTN) – Police armed with riot shields and batons were called in to subdue angry tourists from mainland China who clashed with tour guides in the tiny gambling enclave of Macau, police said Wednesday.
The tourists were apparently unhappy that the guides had taken them to too many shops, when they wanted to see historical sites in the territory that Portugal returned to China in 1999, the South China Morning Post newspaper said.
Two or three officers were sent to resolve the dispute Tuesday which involved more than 100 tourists, police spokesman Pun Siu-tong said.
However, the tourists turned on the police, attacking and injuring one officer and then surrounding a police car to prevent the officers from leaving, he said.
More than 40 police armed with riot gear and batons were then dispatched to the scene, he said, denying earlier reports that the police were from Macau’s riot squad.
Local TV footage showed police swinging truncheons to beat back crowds of tourists, some of them elderly.
“The situation was out of control, so police used appropriate force to stop them,” Pun said.
Four police officers were slightly injured, he said.
Five tourists were charged with creating a public disturbance and confronting police, he added.
Macau lawmaker Antonio Ng said the incident had damaged the territory’s reputation.
“It’s unfortunate that armed police were involved,” Ng said.
Macau — a former sleepy backwater — has become a tourist hotspot in recent years as several big-name U.S. casino operators such as Las Vegas resort owners Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn develop the retail and gambling industry. Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal.
Unlike neighboring Hong Kong, Macau has also retained much of its European heritage, including its Portuguese language and several U.N.-declared World Heritage sites.
More than 2.4 million people traveled to Macau in October, more than half of whom were from mainland China, according to government figures.