Around 7,000 restaurant and bar owners and their employees took to the streets of Hong Kong yesterday, to protest over plans to make the city smoke-free.

Protesters carrying banners and smoking cigarettes marched from Chater Garden to the Central Government Offices in Central.

Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, a legislator representing the catering industry who helped organise the march, explained that many believed that the proposed ban on smoking in all public areas would deliver a crushing blow to the hospitality industry.

He revealed that a down turn in the industry had seen sales fall by up to 30% year on year in most restaurants during Monday’s Mid-Autumn Festival, and if the trend continues the sector will be forced to lay off many employees.

Cheung warned that while yesterday’s demonstration was the largest ever staged by Hong Kong’s catering industry, larger protests will follow if the government ignores the industry’s concerns.

The principal assistant secretary for health and welfare, Eddie Poon Tai-ping, argued however that legislation is essential.