Pro-democracy activists protest at HK airport

10-Aug-2019 Intellasia | AP | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Pro-democracy protesters demonstrated at Hong Kong’s airport Friday even as the city sought to reassure visitors of their welcome despite the increasing levels of violence surrounding the two-month-old protest movement.

The government concedes road blockages and confrontations between police and protesters have caused inconveniences, but says they were limited to specific areas. The protests, however, were not abating, and more are planned for this weekend, including at the airport, where protesters holding signs staged a sit-in at the arrival and departure halls Friday.

Police said they had not received a formal application for a protest at the airport and warned against violence or disruptions that could endanger public safety. They said they were considering applications for weekend marches elsewhere.

Signs held by protesters in the arrival hall included those saying “there are no rioters, only tyranny,” while pamphlets stacked in piles warned visitors of the heavy use of tear gas by police. Officers said 800 canisters were used during protests on Monday alone, and journalists and protesters say many suffered skin irritation and internal injuries as a result.

While the airport appeared to be operating normally, extra identification checks were put in place for both travellers and staff, and airlines were advising passengers to arrive earlier than usual for check-in.

A similar airport protest on July 26 ended peacefully, and there was no indication Friday that police planned to use force to end what was planned as a three-day demonstration.

A Hong Kong government statement referring to the travel safety warnings issued by 22 countries and regions appeared to acknowledge the potential for the protests to devastate the territory’s crucial travel industry. The statement said the government and the travel industry were working to minimise disruptions and “all stand ready to welcome and assist visitors to Hong Kong any time.”

The government on Thursday said tourist arrivals dropped 26 percent at the end of last month compared to last year and were continuing to fall in August. The travel industry accounts for 4.5 percent of the financial hub’s economy and employs about 2500,000 people, or about 7 percent of the total working population.

The impact could be as bad or worse than occurred during the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, Travel Industry Council chair Jason Wong Chun-tat was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post. Wong said cancellations could see hotel revenues in August drop by 40 percent against the same period last year.

Sparked two months ago by proposed extradition legislation that could have seen suspects sent to mainland China where protesters say they could face torture and unfair politicised trials the protests have since morphed into calls for broader democratic reforms in the former British colony, along with the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and investigations into alleged police abuse of force.

Hong Kong police say 592 people have been arrested since June 9, ranging in age from 13 to 76. They face charges including rioting, which allows for prison terms of up to 10 years. Police have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and other projectiles at protesters, with demonstrators responding with metal sticks, bricks, gasoline bombs and carts full of burning debris.

On several occasions, protesters have been attacked by unknown people believed to be linked to organised crime groups, while police took little action to stop them.


Category: Hong Kong

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